European Disability Forum Online Meeting
On 28th April, the European Disability Forum (EDF) held a call with other organisations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) and UN agencies on ‘a disability inclusive Ukraine response’. Four United Nations agencies – UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), UN Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD) & UN International Organisation for Migration (IOM UN Migration) – gave presentations on what they are doing to help the people in and fleeing Ukraine, with a specific focus on children and persons with disabilities.
Ricardo Pla Cordero and Caroline Brass from the UNHCR spoke about the ‘Blue Dot’ initiative – jointly established by UNICEF and UNHCR together with local authorities and partners. ‘Blue Dots’ hubs are safe spaces along border crossings in neighbouring countries that provide children and families with information and services. A list of locations of the hubs can be found her. The hubs provide refugees with critical information and practical support to help them. One service provided is identification of children in need of extra support, for instance children with disabilities. One issue raised was the insufficient data collection, for instance, 12.5% of people using the blue dot hubs have been recorded to have a disability but this data isn’t fully comprehensible. Further, UNHCR recently adopted its Refugee Response Plan for Ukraine which outlines the comprehensive response and activities to support countries’ efforts to protect and assist refugees coming from Ukraine.
Nora Shabani from UNICEF discussed their work to support the children, and particularly those with disabilities, in and fleeing Ukraine. For example, a key component of the work is around identification of children with disabilities and linking them to supporting services. However, this is currently proving to be an issue of resource and capacity. UNICEF is organising activity services, across neighbouring countries, for young people with disabilities. Finally, in Ukraine only 1% of children with disabilities are registered, so UNICEF is working to ensure that the EU Disability Card is recognised across countries.
Ola Abualghaib, Head of the Technical Secretariat of the UN Partnership for Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD), a multi-partner trust fund, outlined the response of the UNPRPD to the situation in Ukraine. Their approach involves in-country support as well as multi-country programme to support the neighbouring countries – both of which are inclusive of children and people with disabilities. They are currently developing a programme which will address three main aspects: 1. capacity building, guidance to the Government and to service providers, 2. capacity building to persons with disabilities, and to support the most marginalise women and children, 3. ensuring the sustainability of immediate services for persons with disabilities who remain in Ukraine. In the neighbouring countries – the essential steps will be supporting more inclusive evacuation processes, documentation of any violation, and supporting data collection.
EUD will continue to gather and share important information like this, for deaf refugees, as well as the National Associations of the Deaf in supporting any deaf refugees from Ukraine coming to their countries.