Recent evidence suggests that the individual prevalence rate of persons with disabilities living in Syria, aged 12 years and above is 27%.1 In Aleppo and Idleb governorates these figures are exceeded: according to available data 59% of females and 27% of males (Aleppo) and 42% of females and 30% of males (Idlib) have disabilities. With regards to age, across Syria 99% of females and 94% of males over the age of 65 years have a disability,1 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.
Risks faced by persons with disabilities in the COVID-19 outbreak
Persons with disabilities are known to be at increased risk in the COVID-19 pandemic due to the need for close contact with personal assistants/caregivers, as well as an increased risk of infection and complications due to underlying health conditions and socioeconomic inequalities, including poor access to health care.
These risks are compounded by numerous barriers to family crisis preparedness due to displacement and drastic changes in living conditions, a lack of access or obstructed access to public health and protection messaging, risks of increased stigma on the basis of disability, inaccessibility of WASH infrastructure, potentially discriminatory attitudes and procedures of the health workforce and systems, and potentially disrupted protection and social support mechanisms.
In situations of severe pressure on health systems, persons with disabilities, including children with disabilities are at risk of being deprioritised or denied access to treatment for COVID-19 based on the assumption that their chances of survival are less compared to those without disabilities. This would be considered a violation of basic human rights.
Physical distancing and/or separation from care givers and support networks could result in disruption of medical, social and rehabilitation care. This could lead to adults and children with disabilities not receiving adequate assistance for health-related concerns, which may result in life-threatening situations.
Potentially increased food insecurity, loss of support mechanisms and protection concerns negatively affect physical and psychological wellbeing (distress, anxiety, negative thoughts etc.).
The risks and additional restrictions faced by persons with disabilities in times of community isolation may further impede health, safety, independence and autonomy of individuals.