The current humanitarian crisis stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has “a disproportionate impact” on persons with disabilities, especially children in institutions there, four UN-appointed independent human rights experts said.
“The terrible tragedy of war highlights historic policy choices made in the past that severely affect children with disabilities,” the Special Rapporteurs said. The independent experts flagged that “Ukraine faces the daunting task of reinventing many of its social and economic systems when this war is finally brought to an end”.
The experts raised the alarm over inadequate services for children with disabilities and the impact that the armed conflict is having on critical services, both within Ukraine as well as surrounding region. They highlighted that thousands of children with disabilities have been sent back to their places of origin without being ensured whether the environments are safe, and this practice including abuse and trafficking may endanger the youth. Moreover, mass repatriation has left many children untreated for physical and mental health conditions.
Citing their displacement from one institution to another, the experts observed that the children who had remained in institutions are experiencing a decline in their health and well-being. And adding to the already known problems of neglect, abuse, physical restrictions, and access to basic services – including education and healthcare – a lack of information on their whereabouts is preventing families from restoring contact. Another concern raised by the experts is that Ukraine seems to require third countries receiving children with disabilities to place them in institutions – even countries that have successfully deinstitutionalization for their own citizens.
The UN experts expressed that investments will be made to build community support when reconstruction and future development for Ukraine being funded, which enable children with disabilities to grow up with their families in family-like environments instead of institutions. Finally, the experts strongly reiterated their “previous calls” on Russia to “immediately end its aggression against Ukraine” and pledged to assist Ukraine to “build a better future for its citizens with disabilities”.
Persons with disabilities in Ukraine are not given the chance to evacuate.(Reuters/Serhii Hudak)
Children with disabilities disproportionately impacted by war in Ukraine
Ukrainians with disabilities are being left behind. It's time for concerted humanitarian action