Reports and Policies

concerning inclusion of persons with disabilities 

“The first ever World report on disability, produced jointly by WHO and the World Bank, suggests that more than a billion people in the world today experience disability. People with disabilities have generally poorer health, lower education achievements, fewer economic opportunities and higher rates of poverty than people without disabilities. This is largely due to the lack of services available to them and the many obstacles they face in their everyday lives. The report provides the best available evidence about what works to overcome barriers to health care, rehabilitation, education, employment, and support services, and to create the environments which will enable people with disabilities to flourish.”

The conflict in Syria has generated one of the largest refugee populations in our time, in great need of humanitarian assistance. Among them, there are older people, persons with disabilities and injuries that have specific needs which are not being addressed by humanitarian actors present in the refugee camps. This report is based on data from the camps in Jordan and Lebanon, and was produced by Handicap International and HelpAge with the aim to give evidence of the prevalence of persons with specific needs, and to call for humanitarian actors to include them in their programs. 


Their findings show that this group is significantly represented among the Syrian refugees that were included in the survey – overall, 30% of the refugees have specific needs. Specifically, 22% of the refugees have an impairment, of which 6% have a severe impairment. In addition, nearly 16% have a chronic disease. Older people are overrepresented among those with specific needs. This report provides an in-depth analysis of the conditions, needs and barriers facing this population – and suggest a line of actions to include them in the programs aimed at assisting refugees. 

"The Convention follows decades of work by the United Nations to change attitudes and approaches to persons with disabilities. It takes to a new height the movement from viewing persons with disabilities as “objects” of charity, medical treatment and social protection towards viewing persons with disabilities as “subjects” with rights, who are capable of claiming those rights and making decisions for their lives based on their free and informed consent as well as being active members of society." 

The signatories of this charter "commit to render humanitarian action inclusive of persons with disabilities, by lifting barriers persons with disabilities are facing in accessing relief, protection and recovery support and ensuring their participation in the development, planning and implementation humanitarian programmes." It has been endorsed by a range of States and governments, UN agencies, organisations involved in humanitarian contexts and organisations of persons with disabilities. It is not signed by MSF.


The document is the result of work of a task team that included the main UN agencies concerned, NGOs such as Humanity & Inclusion (earlier known as Handicap International) and organisations representative of persons with disabilities. It is a comprehensive reference document, broad and systematic, and targeting a large and diverse group of actors involved in humanitarian action. It is therefore not customized to independent humanitarian actors like MSF and it is not a tool designed specifically for MSF field workers to implement inclusion in their projects in a quick and easy manner. To those of you who are not too familiar with the topic of inclusion of persons with disabilities in humanitarian action, we highly recommend our e-learning course as a starting point. Those wishing to develop their knowledge or looking for further inspiration may be particularly interested, depending on their area of intervention, in one of the following chapters of the IASC guidelines: Health (Chapter 15), Shelter and settlements (Chapter 17), Water, sanitation and hygiene (Chapter 18). In future issues of this newsletter, we will get back to these chapters, extracting and highlighting the elements the most relevant to MSF, and linking them to our operations and work culture.

This paper by Light for the World Mozambique and UNICEF presents in a concise manner the bottlenecks in aid provision for women and men, girls and boys with disabilities in relation to the cyclone Idai. 



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