Christian international development organisation CBM Australia has released the Leave No One Behind report, summarising the profound impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities globally and the compelling need for disability inclusion in Australia’s development and aid response.
The report by CBM Australia and the Australian Disability and Development Consortium (ADDC) involved widespread consultations during 2020-2021 with organisations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) across Asia, the Pacific and Africa.
CBM Australia is urging the Australian Government to do more to save lives. CEO, Jane Edge, said that Australia is a global leader in disability inclusion.
“We were one of the first to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the first to introduce a strategy for disability-inclusive international development,” Edge said. “However, at a time when the need is greatest, investment in core disability funding has been reduced. We need to see an urgent increase in investment in disability-inclusive recovery in our region.”
The report found that if COVID-19 responses do not actively target people with disabilities and involve them in the decision making as communities start to recover, this group will be left further behind – and further excluded from socio-economic development.
Other research included how OPDs, people with disabilities and their carers are not being consulted or given timely, accessible information about COVID-19, both at national and global levels. It noted a consistent failure to prioritise people with disabilities in COVID-19 prevention efforts and vaccine roll-out, despite their high vulnerability.
The report highlighted the mental health impact on people with disabilities globally, noting increased psychosocial distress with COVID-19 not being adequately addressed as a mental health issue.
It also shed light on the fact that 85% of people with disabilities surveyed in Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines affected by COVID-19 lockdowns were yet to receive any financial assistance.
“With 80 percent of people with disabilities around the world living in low and middle-income countries, the time for change is now,” Ms Edge said. “The report reveals the vital need to prioritise people with disabilities for early COVID-19 vaccinations, including addressing specific barriers they may have to accessing vaccines and services.
“These could include providing information in accessible formats (braille, and sign-language); ensuring vaccination facilities and services have fully accessible toilets, footpaths, buildings and equipment; and accessible transport,” she said.
The report has been released along with a new video Build Back a Better World for All, ahead of today’s International Day of People with Disabilities (IDPD). The video (also available as an audio version below) shares the voices of people with disabilities and the challenges they’ve faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, including the fact that more than half of those who contract and die from COVID-19 are people with a disability.
In the video, Almah, a lifelong disability inclusion advocate from Papua New Guinea, shares her experience of the pandemic.
“As a person with a disability and as a woman with a disability I was really afraid and frightened,” she said. “The message around COVID-19 wasn’t clear. We did not have the right PPE (safety gear) to keep working and we could not be visited in our homes.”
CBM Australia is urging Australians to help build back a world where all people are included and valued as equal members of society.
About CBM Australia:
CBM Australia is a Christian international development organisation dedicated to transforming the lives of people with disabilities in the world’s poorest communities. With more than 110 years of experience in developing proven community-based programs, CBM helps millions of people with disabilities benefit from real and lasting change.
Working in partnership with people with disabilities, NGOs, government and international agencies, CBM Australia supports close to 40 partners across 22 countries. CBM Australia is fully accredited with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), receives Australian NGO Cooperation Program funding, and is a full member of the Australia Council for International Development and the Australian Disability and Development Consortium (ADDC).