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GENEVA (14 April 2022) –The continued military attacks against Ukraine are putting the lives of an estimated 2.7 million people with disabilities at risk. The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities today deplored the Russian Federation’s aggression despite repeated calls for a ceasefire and cessation of hostilities. The Committee issued the following statement:

“The Committee is deeply disturbed that the fate of people with disabilities in Ukraine is largely unknown.  There are ongoing reports that many people with disabilities, including children, are trapped or abandoned in their homes, residential care institutions and orphanages, with no access to life-sustaining medications, oxygen supplies, food, water, sanitation, support for daily living and other basic facilities. 

People with disabilities have limited or no access to emergency information, shelters and safe havens, and many have been separated from their support networks, leaving them unable to respond to the situation and navigate their surroundings.

The continued military attacks leave people with disabilities extremely vulnerable and at grave risk of harm.  Women with disabilities are at heightened risk of rape and sexual violence that has been widely reported. Few people with disabilities are reported to be internally displaced or to have reached Ukraine’s borders, indicating that many of them have not been able to flee to safety.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities requires States to ensure the inclusion of people with disabilities when meeting their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law.  Ratified by both the Russian Federation and Ukraine, the Convention requires States to take all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of people with disabilities in situations of risk, including armed conflict and humanitarian emergencies.

States parties to the Convention also have obligations for cooperation between and among States, and in partnership with representative organisations of people with disabilities and other civil society organizations, to provide humanitarian assistance that is inclusive and accessible.

The Committee urges all States, UN agencies, civil society and other stakeholders involved in humanitarian action to recognise and respond to the pleas and requirements of people with disabilities caught up in the hostilities. Their specific requirements, including according to gender and age, should be identified and included in all responses to the crisis. Ensuring access to humanitarian corridors, inclusion in evacuation and crisis response plans and the provision of accessible emergency information and communications are measures which should be implemented.

Measures need to be taken to ensure that all people with disabilities are accounted for, protected and provided with immediate access to humanitarian aid, taking into account their individual support requirements. Refugees and internally displaced people with disabilities, and people with disabilities in refugee-like situations need to be provided with support tailored to their individual requirements at border crossings, reception and accommodation facilities and to be provided with relocation assistance. Children with disabilities should be provided with individualised support to ensure they are not separated from their families and are protected from institutionalisation and other harmful practices, such as trafficking.

Above all, the Committee calls upon the Russian Federation to immediately end the hostilities and observe and respect the principles of international human rights and humanitarian law.

The Committee will continue to monitor the situation of people with disabilities in the conflict, in close cooperation with organisations of people with disabilities and human rights organisations.”