Extract from Open Access Government.org
May 9 2022
JAPAN – Yohei Sasakawa, Chairman of the Nippon Foundation, discusses how governments, businesses and NGO’s must not forget disabled Ukrainians:
Over the past few months, news headlines have been dominated by the war in Ukraine. However, one headline, in particular, that stood out was around those with disabilities and how they are being, once again, left behind.
The UN recently warned that 2.7 million disabled Ukrainians have been ‘trapped or abandoned’ by the war. Whether rooted in prejudice or just a failure to consider additional accessibility requirements, the grim statistic highlights the plight of the disabled community.
The UN commented that “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”.
This underlying point remains an all too familiar tale for those working in humanitarian crisis and this needs to change. Disabled Ukrainians cannot and must not remain on the side-lines.
To achieve this change, we must start somewhere and the most obvious first step to me is to be collaborative. Having spent a significant part of my life supporting marginalized people left behind by mainstream society, I am fully convinced that supporting minority disability groups just by relying on NGO’s, governments and the United Nations will not bring about the important change that is needed. The collaboration needs to be bigger than that.
For example, to help those in Ukraine we are working closely with the Valuable 500 as our global impact partner, to support the evacuation and provision of essential medicines and other assistance to the displaced persons with disabilities.
In addition to this, we are helping with the support of over 100 Japanese students who are helping people who have evacuated to neighbouring countries. The Nippon Foundation also announced it will provide a further 5 billion Yen ($40 million) in support for displaced Ukrainians seeking to come to Japan. The funding will go toward transportation and subsidies for living expenses over three years.
On the business side, The Valuable 500, using its network, has been able to help connect us with Access Israel and other local aid organisations on the front line. The assistance includes the provision of vehicles for use during evacuation; the provision of temporary accommodation and livelihood support services for displaced persons with disabilities who have already fled Ukraine. This is the sort of collaboration that is needed – no strings attached and all just because it is the right thing to do.
Disabled Ukrainians, and the disabled community, have been let down by accessibility issues – something that in 2022, the world is still lagging behind in addressing. This just proves how far behind inclusive ‘aid’ is.
One billion people (15% of the world’s population) have a disability – however despite this monumental number, when it comes to aid work – often those with disabilities are overlooked.
The sector simply needs to be more accessible as everyone should have the opportunity to receive aid in a humanitarian crisis. People with disabilities should not have to miss out. We have launched a multi-lingual (English, Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, and Romanian) website with accessibility considerations to register the needs of disabled individuals awaiting evacuation to try and help plug this gap.
It is hoped that this logistical intervention will act as a lifeline to those that are currently unable to access emergency information and support networks. However, this is just one example – and there are many more where great leaps forward have been achieved but often work is done in a silo which means that people get lost and ignored in the system.