Global health leaders have been urged to make sure people with disabilities are not discriminated against during the COVID-19 pandemic, and are able to access the healthcare they need.
A statement issued by Sightsavers to the World Health Assembly, the annual meeting of World Health Organization (WHO) member states, on 18 May called for support in making sure responses to the current global health crisis were inclusive and accessible to all.
It commended the WHO on its leadership on COVID-19, and asked for support in making sure people with disabilities are able to access healthcare facilities, as well as messaging about public health, quarantine and emergency response measures.
Dom Haslam, Sightsavers’ deputy CEO, said: “People with disabilities face excessive barriers to accessing healthcare in normal times, and it has become increasingly clear that this has only been exacerbated further in the current challenging climate.
“We urge governments to ensure the rights and needs of people with disabilities are effectively covered in COVID-19 responses. Decisions taken on allocating resources must never be taken based on pre-existing conditions or medical bias against people with disabilities.”
Reports from the WHO and other UN agencies say people with disabilities are being disproportionately affected by COVID-19, not only because of increased risk for people with existing health conditions, but also because of discrimination in the health, economic and other responses by governments to the COVID-19 crisis.
Sightsavers is also supporting a new campaign launched by two leading disability rights organisations calling on governments around the world to ensure that people with disabilities must be included in the measures to contain and treat COVID-19.
The International Disability Alliance (IDA) and International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) said there was a concerning lack of protocols to ensure disability inclusion during emergency and COVID-19 responses, and worrying accounts that the people with disabilities were having to shoulder some of the worst effects of virus.