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Guidance for including people with disabilities in responses to the COVID-19 pandemic

Countries around the world are currently responding to the outbreak of COVID-19. The pandemic is ruthlessly exposing the need to develop stronger, more resilient health systems. It is also disproportionately impacting the lives of people with disabilities.

Due to high levels of discrimination; inequality; barriers accessing education, employment and healthcare; vulnerable livelihoods; and inadequate social protection schemes, people with disabilities may be highly vulnerable to shocks and crises. This discriminatory context is exacerbated during disasters – which expose existing inequalities.

People with disabilities may also have a health condition that makes them more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 and developing more severe cases. Many of the preventative measures required to keep the virus at bay are also inaccessible, and social distancing and self-isolation can disrupt essential daily care, assistance and rehabilitation services. The impact of COVID-19 is being further exacerbated by inaccessible health facilities and public health messages, and there are alarming number of cases of discrimination against people with disabilities during the pandemic.

This document provides practical guidance for development partners to develop disability-inclusive responses to the COVID-19 pandemic during the emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the immediate- and long-term response to the pandemic, it is vital that all development partners take steps to strengthen health systems that are disability-inclusive.

Publication date: May 2020

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