People with disabilities are being disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In May 2020 we launched a petition calling on the United Nations and its member countries to address this injustice. The petition gathered 25,276 signatures from all over the world! It was handed in to the UN and representatives from member countries on 17 July 2020, along with our letter requesting them to take urgent action (you can read this below). We also recorded a video featuring Sightsavers’ staff members from around the world – take a look…
Our open letter to the UN and its member countries
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected people around the world – but its most devastating impact has been on the lives of people with disabilities. We are calling on you to take urgent action to make sure that disability rights are upheld in the global response to the pandemic, and that no one is left behind.
Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign, which fights for disability rights, launched a petition in May 2020 for the UN and its member states to ensure a disability-inclusive COVID-19 response and address rights violations. More than 25,000 people across 96 countries have signed the petition, which requests that governments show leadership on making COVID-19 strategies, policies and programmes disability-inclusive; that the UN and member states work with people with disabilities and their representative organisations during and beyond the pandemic; that all public health and emergency information be available in accessible formats; and that health care be provided to people with disabilities without discrimination, on an equal basis with others.
We are calling on you to address the violation of rights faced by people with disabilities worldwide as a matter of critical importance. Specifically, we urge you to support the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy.
In 2019, the UN published a Disability Inclusion Strategy, setting out its vision on disability inclusion. It’s essential that this strategy is put into action to make sure that the global recovery from COVID-19 is inclusive of people with disabilities. Without this, we will never achieve the promise of the global Sustainable Development Goals, to create an equal world where no one is left behind.
Dr Caroline Harper
The participants in the video are Sightsavers staff members from around the world:
- Rasak Adekoya, programme officer, Nigeria
- Diane Kingston, global technical lead on disability inclusion and past member of UN CRPD committee, UK
- Ayon Debnath, advocacy and communications officer, Bangladesh
- Martin Okiyo, global advocacy adviser, Kenya
- Ciara Smullen, CEO, Sightsavers Ireland
- Munazza Gilani, country director, Pakistan
- Gertrude Oforiwa Fefoame, organisational spokesperson for social inclusion and current member of UN CRPD committee, Ghana
- Fatoumata Diouf, West Africa regional director, Senegal
People with disabilities around the world have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In May 2020, Sightsavers’ Equal World campaign launched a petition calling on the United Nations and its member states to take action to make the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic inclusive of people with disabilities.
In eight weeks we gathered thousands of signatures, and we’re presenting these to the UN and its member states with a plea to urgently address the violation of rights faced by people with disabilities worldwide.
Here is what needs to happen:
- All governments must show leadership by ensuring that national and international COVID-19 strategies, policies and programmes are inclusive of people with disabilities, and particularly women and girls with disabilities.
- The UN and all member states must work with people with disabilities and their representative organisations during and beyond the pandemic, to ensure we are consulted and can actively participate in decisions that affect us.
- People with disabilities must be able to access health care and hygiene measures on an equal basis with others, without discrimination.
In 2019, the UN published a Disability Strategy, setting out its vision on disability inclusion. It’s essential that this strategy is put into action in a way that takes into account the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities, with guidance on how to make responses to the pandemic inclusive prioritised across all UN organisations, ensuring an equal world by rebuilding inclusively.
Most of all, the UN and its member states must be held accountable for upholding the rights of people with disabilities during this devastating pandemic. They must make sure their commitments to people with disabilities are upheld through the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the global Sustainable Development Goals.
The stakes are high. This is a life or death situation.
We call on the UN, its agencies and its member states to take urgent action on disability rights and to leave no one behind.