17 Sep 2020
It is with grave concern that the COVID-19 Disability Rights Monitor (DRM) calls on governments to take immediate emergency measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to food, medication, and other essential supplies. Analysis by the COVID-19 DRM has revealed that government failure to take measures to protect the most basic needs of persons with disabilities has resulted in preventable deaths. Almost one-third of the survey respondents said that people with disabilities in their country lacked access to food or medication at some points during the pandemic.
Respondents from high, middle and low-income countries reported remarkably similar barriers to accessing basic necessities. Respondents from high-income countries such as Canada, the USA, the UK, France and Australia complained that a rise in the cost of living combined with a breakdown of social and financial supports has resulted in people with disabilities not being able to afford essentials.
My main concern is that the living expenses of all people with disabilities have gone up, and continue to go up, and the Australian government insists that they haven't. Many of us are getting to the point of missing meals altogether, choosing between food or medication. (Australia, person with disabilities).
Similarly, respondents from low and middle income countries including Uganda, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone said that rising inflation rates meant that they could not afford food and medicine.
To get medicine is not easy in my community, pharmacies demands United States Dollars, which the majority don't have and the medicines are very expensive beyond the reach of many persons with disabilities. (Zimbabwe, person with disabilities).
Access to necessities was particularly difficult in countries with strict curfews or quarantine enforcement methods, including France, Serbia, the Philippines, and Kenya. Those who could leave their homes to seek food, medicine and other essentials such as diapers risked fines, harassment and brutality from police and security forces (See the COVID-19 DRM Statement on police brutality). Furthermore, respondents expressed concerns for homeless persons with disabilities, many of whom were children who previously relied on begging to buy food.
When food and medication were available, the distribution was initiated by NGOs, organisations of persons with disabilities, or charities, and not by the government, leading to uneven food distribution throughout the country. Food relief efforts did not reach persons with disabilities living in remote and rural areas and persons living in institutions. Furthermore, many children with disabilities relied on schools to provide meals, yet governments have failed to replace these meals when schools were closed.
In accordance with their obligations under international law, particularly the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, we call on governments, funders, and global actors to take the following emergency measures in partnership with persons with disabilities and their representative organizations to avoid further humanitarian catastrophe:
The COVID-19 DRM Coordinating Group believes that failure to take these steps will lead to further, preventable deaths of persons with disabilities.
Disability Rights Monitor, Coordinating Group