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People with Disabilities

Who We Help
© UNHCR/C. Shirley

Largely invisible or Forgotten

The World Health Organization estimates that about 15 per cent of the world’s population has a disability. Although no global figures are available, this suggests that several million people who live with disabilities are forcibly displaced. Despite this, people with disabilities remain largely invisible or forgotten in their uprooted communities. Despite efforts to take better care of people at greater risk, assistance and protection measures designed for the majority very rarely meet the specific needs of those with disabilities. Due to a lack of identification and referral procedures, poorly adapted services, and poor access, hundreds of thousand of people with disabilities are effectively deprived of the humanitarian aid to which they are entitled.

People with disabilities are specifically vulnerable to physical, sexual and emotional abuse and may require additional protection. The lack of privacy in some situations, such as a lack of access to latrines and bathing areas, increases the risk of abuse. People with disabilities are very often isolated from community life; they risk being left behind when those around them flee and may face difficulties accessing family tracing programmes.

UNHCR supports the rights of people living with disabilities, both among its own staff and among people of concern to the agency. And through its Age, Gender and Diversity Mainstreaming (AGDM) approach, UNHCR works with the refugee community to identify and address issues faced by people with disabilities and to develop targeted actions. When the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities entered into force in 2008, UNHCR included the covenant's principles in its operations. The refugee agency is also a member of the UN working group on disabilities.