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Adapting the global humanitarian response to COVID-19

21 May 2020


Credit: Handicap International

Seven-year-old Samina is not able to walk or use her hands for tasks such as bathing, combing her hair, or holding objects. Recently, she had begun participating in organized activities and rehabilitation exercises, and this was making a real difference in her life. Due to COVID-19, Pakistan is on lockdown, and so are the children’s activities.

Like Samina, 1 billion people (about 15 per cent of the world’s population, out of which 80 per cent live in developing countries) have a disability. The Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) for COVID-19 May update identified people with disabilities as one of the most affected and highest priority groups to be prioritized in the COVID-19 response in humanitarian settings.

Pre-existing social and economic inequalities, difficulties to take preventive measures, disruption in support and specialized services needed to maintain functioning and daily tasks, and a higher incidence of underlying health conditions put people with disabilities at heightened risk of exposure. They are also disproportionately affected by the pandemic’s socioeconomic impacts, including disruption in access to education and specialized services, and an elevated risk of violence, abuse, neglect and abandonment. 

These effects and risks are further exacerbated in humanitarian contexts, where access to adequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) is particularly challenging for people with disabilities, as are options for inclusive and accessible learning. People with disabilities also face multiple barriers to accessing health care.

The policy brief “A Disability-Inclusive Response to COVID-19” released in early May by the UN Secretary-General emphasizes that it is essential to mainstream disability inclusion in all COVID-19 response and recovery actions, together with more targeted actions.

At the end of March, the UN launched the $2.01 billion coordinated GHRP for 54 countries to fight COVID-19 in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries in a bid to protect millions of people and stop the virus from circling back around the globe.

On 7 May, the updated GHRP was released, covering an additional nine countries (so 63 countries in total): Benin, Djibouti (part of the Regional Migrant Response Plan), Liberia, Lebanon (now counted as a “country” on top of being part of the 3RP for Syria), Mozambique, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Further information on how the humanitarian response is being adapted across global humanitarian operations to address the COVID-19 pandemic is available in a bi-monthly GHRP financial update.

For the latest figures on GHRP funding and other coordinated response plan funding, please visit the Financial Tracking Service (FTS).