Protection and safety of persons with disabilities in Ukraine

Protection and safety of persons with disabilities in Ukraine

24 February 2022: Open letter to the Head of the European Institutions, European, Russian and Ukrainian Heads of State and NATO 24 February 2022

The European Disability Forum (EDF) calls for all parties to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in Ukraine, by respecting:

  • their obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in particular Article 11 on situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies
  • the UN Security Council Resolution 2475 (2019) on Protection of Persons with Disabilities in Conflict 
  • International Humanitarian Law and the Humanitarian Principles. 

In any situation of crisis or conflict, persons with disabilities face disproportionate risk of abandonment, violence, death, and a lack of access to safety, relief, and recovery support. Women with disabilities are at increased risk of sexual violence and children with disabilities are more exposed to abuse and neglect. Crucial information on safety and evacuation is often inaccessible, and evacuation centres themselves are also rarely accessible, meaning that persons with disabilities are too often left behind.   

There are 2.7 million persons with disabilities registered in Ukraine. Our contacts in the country have confirmed that the situation for persons with disabilities is appalling. For example, shelters in Kiev are inaccessible, so people with disabilities are forced  to stay at home, not knowing where they can go to be safe.   

Persons with disabilities living in institutions, already cut off from their communities, risk being abandoned and forgotten. In Ukraine alone, at least 82,000 children are segregated from society [1], with countless more adults with disabilities permanently institutionalised [2] 

We call on the political leadership and all humanitarian actors dealing with this crisis to ensure that persons with disabilities:  

  • Have full access to all humanitarian aid
  • Are protected from violence, abuse and ill treatment 
  • Are provided with accessible information about safety and assistance protocols, evacuation procedures and support 
  • Have full access to basic services including water and sanitation, social support, education, healthcare, transport and information  
  • Are accounted for and not abandoned: it is also essential that measures are in place which fully include people living in institutions or orphanages; and relocation and evacuation measures should not force more persons with disabilities to live in such institutions 
  • Are meaningfully involved in all humanitarian action, through their representative organisations  

Particular attention must be paid to those who are most at risk – including women, children, blind and deafblind persons, persons with psychosocial and intellectual disabilities, and persons with high support needs.  

Today we witness full scale conflict on European soil. With the escalation of the situation in Ukraine, the European Disability Forum urgently reminds states of their responsibilities to ensure the protection and safety of all persons with disabilities.
EDF President, Yannis Vardakastanis 

EDF continues to monitor the situation, in contact with our partners. 

Additional resources

Inclusive emergency response

[1] No Way Home: The Exploitation and Abuse of Children in Ukraine’s Orphanages | UNICEF Global Development Commons

[2] Microsoft Word – Joint contribution_Ukraine_DRI_ENIL_Validity_SAIB.docx (