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Persons with disabilities are being disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 crisis


A new article has been released on the Sustainable Development Goals Knowledge Hub, which details how the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent policies are affecting persons with disabilities in grave ways. The authors, Elizabeth Lockwood and Orsolya Bartha, explain that not only are many persons with disabilities at greater risk of contracting COVID-19, but they also face barriers in accessing healthcare services, as well as disruptions in their usual healthcare service provision. Consequently, the authors argue that, “During and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals] will remain relevant only if governments reframe the Goals to be part of the fabric of people’s lives.”

Development Pathways recognises that while the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that we are all vulnerable, in normal circumstances, persons with disabilities are made vulnerable by their environment due to the interaction of their impairment with the barriers that they face. These barriers have only increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, and without appropriate measures, the consequences could be fatal. It should also be recognised that without sufficient income support during the pandemic, persons with disabilities may be left behind once the crisis is over. Many persons with disabilities require a higher level of financial assistance to cover the additional costs they experience as the result of their disability, and if COVID-19 measures do not account for this, households with a member with a disability will be more vulnerable shocks.

In line with Lockwood and Bartha’s article, it is therefore hoped that once the COVID-19 pandemic has finished, the Sustainable Development Goals will be “re-focused into feasible and inclusive life-saving actions.” An important means of achieving this is to have in place a social protection system that builds resilience and provides income support to persons with disabilities across their lifecycle. Any shock-responsive support can therefore build on the robust and inclusive social protection system that is already in place. This is just one step that must be taken to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind, especially during a crisis.

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