Syria: Guidance Note on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in the COVID-19 CCCM Response

Middle East, Misc., News, February 19 2021

SYRIA: This guidance note provides an overview of the risks that persons with disabilities face in the COVID-19 response regarding accessing humanitarian services and proposes actions to address these risks within the CCCM response specifically. This note draws on the IASC Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action,
CCCM chapter, applying these to the northwest Syria COVID-19 response. For more elaborated description of the situation in NWS and comprehensive suggestions of solutions, this guidance note to be read in conjunction with the ITWG “Self-reported barriers to activities of daily living of persons with disabilities living in IDP sites in northwest Syria” brief report and recommendations.

Why does disability inclusion matter in the COVID-19 CCCM response?

Recent evidence suggests that the prevalence rate of persons with disabilities living in Syria, aged 12 years and above is 25%.3 In Aleppo and Idleb governorates specifically, 26% of females and 33% of males (Aleppo) and 30% of females and 34% of males (Idlib) have disabilities. 4 With regards to age, across Syria, 79% of females and 81% of males over the age of 56 years have a disability,5 which is especially important to note when considering the intersectionality of gender, age and disability in COVID-19 specific response planning and implementation of activities.

Persons with disabilities in Syria are known to be at increased risk of protection concerns and transmission of the virus in the COVID-19 pandemic. This is because they can face higher exposure rates due to the need for close contact with personal assistants/care givers, 6 can be more likely to have an underlying health condition and face attitudinal, environmental and institutional barriers to participate in and access services. 7 Exclusion from key CCCM activities such as participation in consultations on services, accountability to the affected population (AAP) mechanisms, including complaints and feedback mechanisms, as well as camp governance, further compounds socioeconomic deprivation and segregation which increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

To assist communities affected by crisis in an appropriate, timely and relevant manner, affected communities should have equal access to information, be aware of their rights and entitlements and effectively participate in decisions that affect them.

Key barriers faced in accessing CCCM facilities and services

• Persons with disabilities face additional physical barriers to engaging in personal protective measures in camps and/or settlements; this includes accessing handwashing stations, health infrastructure and community information sessions due to inaccessible camp set up and facilities, as well as exacerbated threats of exploitation and abuse in the community.

• Persons with disabilities may be separated from family and/or primary caregivers and thus not accompanied by supportive companions to facilitate their access to services.

• If shelter is far away from key infrastructure, while outreach services are lacking, persons with disabilities are more vulnerable to COVID-19 transmission as their ability to access information and services is reduced when compared to persons without disabilities.

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