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NewsThe impact of Covid and war on people with disabilities in Ukraine

The impact of Covid and war on people with disabilities in Ukraine

RESEARCHERS have called for Ukraine’s Organisations of Persons with Disabilities (OPD) to have a better say in the country’s decision-making process.

The Edinburgh Napier led team were finalising their report on the impact of Covid on the country’s almost three million persons with disabilities when Russia invaded.

The investigation carried out with partners in Ukraine looked at how the pandemic created new barriers and amplified existing ones for the country’s people living with disabilities.

Ukrain OPD
The war and Covid have had a serious impact on persons with disabilities in Ukraine, with many unable to get to safe zones.

Covid limited people with disabilities access to healthcare, social services and transport and increased their social isolation along with undermining their economic security.

Digital poverty meant many could not access online portals for government departments for learning.

The study also highlighted concerns about decreasing levels of cooperation from public bodies.

Now, the war with Russia is presenting new and even more complex challenges for the civilian population caught up in it, of which 15 percent will have a disability.

Initial reports suggest people with disabilities are struggling to access safe zones, medical services and reliable information.

Principal Investigator Dr Kiril Sharapov, from Edinburgh Napier’s School of Applied Sciences, said: “Organisations of Persons with Disabilities remain one of the last remaining systems of support for the people they have been taking care of within the context of the pandemic and now within the context of this catastrophic war.

“They continue, where and when they can, to provide support to the most vulnerable individuals and their families.

“Their knowledge and expertise must inform all current and future relief efforts provided by the Government of Ukraine and by the international donors and humanitarian agencies.”

The report calls for OPDs to have their roles recognised at a legislative level in Ukraine and for the government to support their activities.

It also recommends that public bodies consult with and give OPDs a say in decision making and be actively involved in monitoring the quality of social service delivery.

Within Ukraine, there are almost three million people registered as having a disability with actual numbers likely being higher, it is unknown exactly due to a lack of reliable statistics.

Dr Sharapov researched the impact of covid on them in partnership with the National Assembly of People with Disabilities of Ukraine umbrella group and local organisations.

The study was funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund and the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council.

A total of 108 organisations responded to a survey co-designed by the National Assembly of People with Disabilities of Ukraine.

This makes it the largest survey to explore the views of the disability movement on the effects of the pandemic.

The findings were presented to disability experts and activists, who were asked to comment and give recommendations.

The research report says it is “essential” that public authorities in Ukraine at all levels recognise and support OPDs as key actors in ensuring and protecting the rights of people they are caring for.

It is also recommended that an up-to-date register of all OPDs is kept and the government collaborates with them to develop a rapid response protocol for circulating information during public health emergencies.  

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