UNFPA urges leaders to protect rights of persons with disabilities amid COVID-19

UNFPA urges leaders to protect rights of persons with disabilities amid COVID-19

UNFPA Gender and Human Rights Branch have urged all people, world leaders in particular, to remain vigilant in assuring the protection of persons with disabilities amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Noting that at present there are roughly 1 billion people around the globe living with a disability, UNFPA stated that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the barriers faced by persons with disabilities are continuing to grow.

Referring to the ongoing pandemic, UNFPA's statement declares that "persons with disabilities face more discrimination, violence, and barriers to accessing information, education and services related to gender-based violence and sexual and reproductive health".

Specifically, the organization highlights the impact this current crisis places on women and girls with disabilities, who are at higher risk of gender-based violence and loss of access to life-saving health services.

Built upon on UNFPA’s We Decide Initiative, the organization has identified five key messages for governments and institutions to abide by.

In recognition of the fact that one in seven people around the world is living with a disability, UNFPA advises involving organizations of persons with disabilities (OPDs) and networks, in the decision making and formation of the COVID-19 response.

Secondly, it is highlighted that the incident of gender-based violence may increase among women and girls with disabilities due to social isolation, disrupted routines and due to caregivers not being able to reach them. UNFPA also states that overall, persons with disabilities are three times more likely to experience different forms of violence than those without disabilities.

To reduce GBV during COVID-19, UNFPA stresses on the availability of accessible hotlines for persons with disabilities, urging trusted family and caregivers and have persons who check on them to ensure their safety.

Although a number of difficulties previously existed as well, persons with disabilities face added discrimination and barriers to access information, education and services, in the face of this new, unprecedented normal.

In consideration of the above, UNFPA declares that it is vital that all facets of society and governance remain vigilant in ensuring that persons with disabilities have the same rights to Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights, on an equal basis as others, during COVID-19 and otherwise.

Maldives now records a total of 968 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 922 active cases, four fatalities and a total of 40 recoveries. Capital city Malé, one of the most densely populated places in the world, has recorded a significant increase in COVID-19 cases since recording its first local transmission on April 15.

Thus far, no statistics are available on how far the virus has infected persons with disabilities in Maldives. However, concerns have been raised prior to the pandemic regarding the accessibility of various vital facilities, to persons with disabilities that require such services, to live an independent and dignified life.

On March 12, 2020, the World Health Organization classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The new strain of novel coronavirus has infected over 4.4 million people and claimed over 298,200 lives around the world. However, out of those infected, 1.6 million people have recovered.