Prioritise disability in development work, warn MPs

10 April 2014

MPs say development goals will remain out of reach unless DFID urgently steps up its work on disability.

Launching the report, Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Bruce MP, Chair of the International Development Committee in the UK Parliament, said,

"Disabled people in developing countries are the poorest of the poor: if we are serious about tackling extreme poverty, our development work has to target them. So while it’s good the UK government has brought disability on to the agenda for global development goals (1) – DfID must now lead by example and make effort to ensure the needs of disabled people become a clear and sustained priority going forward within its own development programmes.

Despite enormous global advances in education and health since the turn of the millennium, disabled people continue to be excluded from the most basic of services (2). This is unacceptable.

During our inquiry we saw and heard harrowing examples of the discrimination that disabled people face: On a recent visit to Burma, we met a young man who had been tied up because his family had no way to cope with his mental health problem. We also heard accounts during oral evidence of disabled mothers ridiculed by midwives; of disabled children not immunised; and of disabled girls raped and abused, while the perpetrators go unpunished."

The Committee praises DFID’s existing work on disability but calls for DfID to: 

  • Produce a disability strategy; appoint a larger team responsible for disability; and strengthen reporting processes – so that efforts made by Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Lynne Featherstone MP to push disability up the agenda deliver enduring change in the shape and content of the Department’s work.
  • Show much more ambition in its work with disabled people by targeting them and their needs explicitly – starting with a pledge to make all programmes accessible throughout, not just a proportion of them, and then implementing this in a phased way across one or two major sectors, and in a selection of countries initially.
  • Give disabled people a central role in its work, by stepping up its support for disabled people’s organisations in developing countries and by ensuring disabled people participate fully in the design and delivery of DFID’s own programmes.
  • Promote attention to the needs of disabled people via its role as a lead contributor to UN and other international agencies, making it an explicit requirement that this funding reaches disabled people, especially in disaster and conflict situations.

Commenting further Sir Malcolm Bruce added:

"Disabled people are amongst the most at risk in emergencies. Without proper support, barely one fifth of disabled people can readily evacuate in the face of a disaster. Those who manage to escape will frequently struggle to access refugee camps or other relief – but simple steps, such as building accessible toilets, or bringing disabled people to the front of queues, can often make an enormous difference. It’s imperative that DFID uses its position as a major donor to insist disabled people get the help they deserve."

Further information


Image: ICRC

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