COVID-19 Disability Rights Monitor calls on governments to ensure access to food, medication and essential supplies for persons with disabilities
It is with grave concern that the COVID-19 Disability Rights Monitor (DRM) calls on governments to take immediate emergency measures to ensure that persons with disabilities have access to food, medication, and other essential supplies. Analysis by the COVID-19 DRM has revealed that government failure to take measures to protect the most basic needs of persons with disabilities has resulted in preventable deaths. Almost one-third of the survey respondents said that people with disabilities in their country lacked access to food or medication at some points during the pandemic.
Respondents from high, middle and low-income countries reported
remarkably similar barriers to accessing basic necessities. Respondents
from high-income countries such as Canada, the USA, the UK, France and
Australia complained that a rise in the cost of living combined with a
breakdown of social and financial supports has resulted in people with
disabilities not being able to afford essentials.
My main concern is that the living expenses of all people with disabilities have gone up, and continue to go up, and the Australian government insists that they haven’t. Many of us are getting to the point of missing meals altogether, choosing between food or medication. (Australia, person with disabilities).
Similarly, respondents from low and middle income countries including
Uganda, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone said that rising
inflation rates meant that they could not afford food and medicine.
To get medicine is not easy in my community, pharmacies demands United States Dollars, which the majority don’t have and the medicines are very expensive beyond the reach of many persons with disabilities. (Zimbabwe, person with disabilities).
Access to necessities was particularly difficult in countries with
strict curfews or quarantine enforcement methods, including France,
Serbia, the Philippines, and Kenya. Those who could leave their homes to
seek food, medicine and other essentials such as diapers risked fines,
harassment and brutality from police and security forces (See the COVID-19 DRM Statement on police brutality).
Furthermore, respondents expressed concerns for homeless persons with
disabilities, many of whom were children who previously relied on
begging to buy food.
When food and medication were available, the distribution was
initiated by NGOs, organisations of persons with disabilities, or
charities, and not by the government, leading to uneven food
distribution throughout the country. Food relief efforts did not reach
persons with disabilities living in remote and rural areas and persons
living in institutions. Furthermore, many children with disabilities
relied on schools to provide meals, yet governments have failed to
replace these meals when schools were closed.
In accordance with their obligations under international law,
particularly the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with
Disabilities, we call on governments, funders, and global actors to take
the following emergency measures in partnership with persons with disabilities and their representative organizations to avoid further humanitarian catastrophe:
- Guarantee affordable food, medicine and other essentials, such
as baby products for people with disabilities and their family members.
- Collect data from persons with disabilities on the need for food, medicine, and other essential services.
emergency measures to ensure adequate food, and medication distribution
throughout the country, including rural and remote areas, and in
- Take emergency measures to end police brutality, and fines against persons with disabilities and their family members.
financial assistance to persons with disabilities to cover the
additional cost of living, and the rise in the cost of food, medications
and other essential supplies.
- Work with private sector
companies such as supermarkets to ensure that food is delivered to the
homes of persons with disabilities who are unable to leave
- Provide meals for all children with and without disabilities who cannot access school meals.
supermarkets, grocery stores, and other commercial enterprises to
allocate dedicated times for vulnerable shoppers, including persons with
The COVID-19 DRM Coordinating Group believes
that failure to take these steps will lead to further, preventable
deaths of persons with disabilities.
Disability Rights Monitor, Coordinating Group