IDA-IDDC Joint Reaction to the WHA Resolution on COVID-19 response
Tuesday 2 June 2020. The International Disability and Development Consortium (IDDC) and the International Disability Alliance (IDA) represent disability-focused civil society organisations and Organizations of Persons with Disabilities worldwide. Together, we are monitoring the impact of COVID-19 on persons with disabilities and using this evidence to strengthen the COVID-19 response and recovery. In our joint public statement, submitted to the World Health Assembly (WHA) as non-state actors, we stressed the importance of ensuring inclusive access to health, in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
We congratulate the WHA for unanimously adopting the Resolution
on COVID-19 response, which demonstrates the attempt of the
international community to tackle the pandemic with unity, solidarity and
multilateral cooperation. We welcome the emphasis on the poorest and most
vulnerable and the call for universal and equitable access; however, these
principles risk remaining empty shells, without a global pool for open
licensing of patents and without systematic consultation and meaningful
participation of vulnerable populations to build response.
We commend WHA for adopting a Resolution that
recognises the need to protect the most vulnerable groups, including persons
with disabilities, who are disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In particular, we applaud the specific call for national action plans to
integrate age- and disability- sensitive and gender responsive measures
across government sectors against COVID-19. In order to make this call a
reality, we urge national authorities to ensure the meaningful participation of
persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in the
designing and implementing of national action plans.
It is disappointing to acknowledge that the Resolution
does not integrate aspects that are essential to build inclusive prevention,
response, and evaluation plans: there is no reference to the need to collect
disability disaggregated data and to make COVID-19 information accessible to
everyone. Specific reference to the need to protect and promote the health
of persons living in institutions and care facilities that have been
particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 is also lacking.
COVID-19 has exacerbated the barriers that many
persons with disabilities have been facing when accessing health information
and services before the starting of the pandemic. We have also witnessed how
persons with disabilities are particularly affected by the disruption of
essential services due to the pandemic. As State members progress in
strengthening their health systems to adequately respond to the pandemic and
ensure that essential services continue to operate and adopt safety standards,
we call for these initiatives to consistently refer to accessibility,
participation and non-discrimination as key guiding principles. We commend that
sexual and reproductive and mental health services are listed amongst the
services that should be maintained. However, we highlight that also the provision of rehabilitation services
and products should be ensured during the current health crisis, as they
are essential for persons affected by COVID-19, as well as for many persons
experiencing loss of function and disability due to other conditions.
Despite recognizing that health technologies and
products against COVID-19 are essential public goods, the Resolution misses
the opportunity to create a global pool for open licensing of patents and
know-how in the prevention, detection and treatment of COVID-19. The call
for a ‘voluntary pool’, contained in the Resolution, de facto limits the
manufacturing and import of affordable copies, with a negative impact on the
availability and accessibility of vaccines, treatments and tests, in particular
for the most vulnerable groups in low-income countries and fragile
We appreciate that the WHA Resolution reiterates the
importance of meeting the needs of low- and middle-income countries through
timely and adequate development and humanitarian assistance. In particular, we
urge Member States to comply with the Resolution’s provision that calls to ensure
the safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel and to protect
medical facilities, as well as the delivery of supplies and equipment.
We fully support the intent to continue building
and strengthening the capacities of the WHO at all levels to fully and
effectively perform its functions. In a moment where the role of the WHO is
significantly undermined, we believe that multilateral cooperation is the
answer, and we remain ready to cooperate with the UN system and all key
stakeholders to ensure inclusive access to health.
Finally, the WHA itself, organised exceptionally and
for the first time online, could have been a unique opportunity to ensure
accessibility via online technology, but many delegates experienced issues to
access and interact, and some Organizations of Persons with Disabilities did
not manage to register and participate in the Assembly due to inaccessibility
of the website. We remain available to support WHO in ensuring that future WHA
can meet these accessibility standards in its virtual and in person formats.