Human Rights

People with Down syndrome at high risk of being abandoned in Ukraine

Down syndrome, Ukraine

In a March 1 statement, Down Syndrome International (DSi) urged all parties involved in the Ukraine conflict to ensure the “protection and safety” of people with disabilities who are still in the country. As the advocacy organization noted, there are 2.7 million people with disabilities registered in Ukraine, and according to contacts on the ground, they are in an “appalling” situation.

“For example, shelters in [Kyiv] are inaccessible, so people with disabilities are forced to stay at home, not knowing where they can go to be safe,” DSi reported. “Persons with Down syndrome and other disabilities living in institutions, are already cut off from their communities and risk being abandoned and forgotten.”

But as the organization pointed out, in any humanitarian crisis, abandonment is not the only tragedy that has a disproportionate impact on people with Down syndrome or other disabilities. They also face a heightened risk of violence or death, and a lack of access to safety, relief, protection, assistance, and recovery support. In addition, women with disabilities are at an increased risk of sexual violence, while children are vulnerable to abuse and neglect.

READ: As Russian forces continue attack, orphans in Ukraine struggle to stay safe

According to Learning Disability Today, one organization, the Partnership for Inclusive Disaster Strategies, created an information pack for people with disabilities trying to evacuate Ukraine. The pack contains practical information about how to get to the border, and the types of items people with disabilities should bring with them, such as a supply of medication and medical documents.

While information is a crucial resource during a conflict, it can only go so far. The DSi called on political leaders and humanitarian actors to do their part by ensuring people with disabilities have equal access to protective measures.

“Article 11 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by both Russia and Ukraine and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2475, create clear obligations, that cannot be suspended even in a state of emergency, to ensure equal protection and safety for all persons with disabilities, as well as timely and unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance,” DSi stated.

“We also call on all humanitarian actors to ensure fulfilment of international humanitarian standards, including the IASC Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action,” they added.

In addition to full access to humanitarian aid, DSi said it wants to see people with Down syndrome or other disabilities be accounted for, not abandoned. The organization also emphasized that people with disabilities should be “meaningfully involved in all inclusive humanitarian action, through their representative organisations.”

DSi promised to continue monitoring the situation and remain in contact with members in the region.

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