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Research shows ‘shocking’ exclusion of people with disabilities during pandemic

September 2021

New reports from the Inclusive Futures initiative show that many people with disabilities have been excluded from planning and relief efforts during COVID-19.

Three sets of research and learning were compiled as part of Inclusive Futures, a partnership between Sightsavers and 15 other international development organisations to promote disability inclusion.

Researchers spoke to people with disabilities about how they have been affected by the pandemic, with many saying they were unable to get help with food, medicine and other crisis relief efforts that were available to the wider population.

In Uganda, a man with albinism told researchers: “Many agencies have come to my area with relief food, but I have had access to none. This exclusion from interventions to me is just a sign that people like me are still discriminated against.”

In Kenya, a man with a physical disability said: “Before COVID, people with disabilities were struggling. Now with COVID, this is worse. Those I have tried to talk to see this as the end of their lives.”

Inclusive Futures technical lead Lorraine Wapling, who worked on the research, said: “We knew this situation was bad for people with disabilities, but when we looked into the detail, it was even worse than we imagined. I was in shock. Despite all the hard work by organisations of people with disabilities, the right to be included in times of crisis still seems far from being achieved.”

At the start of the pandemic, Sightsavers was part of a response by 10 organisations in five countries through the Inclusive Futures consortium, helping to provide 60,000 people with immediate relief and longer-term support. What we learned about disability inclusion was vital to shape the learning across the consortium, which has also been published.

Sightsavers is also using the results of the research and learning to encourage disability inclusion across the development and humanitarian sector.

Susan Pieri, associate programme director at Sightsavers for Inclusive Futures, said: “Experience shows that it is more effective to plan for inclusion rather than react. Lessons learned in our COVID-19 response can be directly applied to making future crises response and recovery disability-inclusive. We know these lessons have been found before, but people with disabilities are still being left behind and these lessons still aren’t being learned by the sector.”

To read the research, visit www.inclusivefutures.org/learning-from-covid-19

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