The Rights and Safety of Disabled People in Ukraine

Last week, I wrote to the Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, regarding growing concerns for the rights and safety of disabled people in Ukraine.

I received a response from the Foreign Office that failed to mention disabled people once.

We need concrete commitments from the UK Government to protect disabled people’s rights on the ground now.

The full text of the letter:

Dear Liz,

Re: Disabled people’s rights and safety in Ukraine

We, the undersigned write in relation to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and the continued concern for disabled people’s rights and safety.

The European Disability Forum has estimated that 2.7 million disabled people currently live in Ukraine. Disabled people are disproportionately impacted by war and emergency situations. Factors such as access to medication, accessible transport and infrastructure, care, equipment and mobility aids create barriers for disabled people to seek refuge, safety or evacuate through the same means as non-disabled people.

The Regional Governor in Kyiv, Oleksei Kuleba, raised concerns about the evacuation of people from hospitals, particularly those with additional needs or requiring essential access to medication, following Russian forces seizing a psychiatric hospital in Borodyanka on the 5th of March. Following the most recent air strike on a hospital in Mariupol on the 9th of March, we are deeply concerned that disabled people or people with long term health conditions are not getting equal access to safety, shelter and support during this crisis. The European Disability Forum has also reported that shelters in Kyiv are inaccessible for many disabled people, preventing people from finding safety.

Despite being disproportionately impacted by humanitarian crises, disabled people are also often excluded from aid programmes that are inaccessible or not targeting disabled people’s needs. Given the scale of this humanitarian crisis, assurance is needed that disabled people in Ukraine have full access to humanitarian aid and accessible information is being provided to ensure disabled people are directed towards the latest safety, aid support and evacuation advice on the ground.

We call on the UK Government to ensure the protection of disabled people’s rights in Ukraine, as stated in Article 11 of the UNCRPD, and the accessibility of humanitarian aid provided in Ukraine. Disabled people are too often abandoned or merely an afterthought in evacuation and safety plans during conflict. It is essential that disabled people have equal access to safety, shelter and support. Disabled people and their representative organisations must be consulted to ensure equal protection and safety for all in Ukraine.

Yours sincerely

Marion Fellows MP