Put young people at heart of pandemic response, report urges

National governments must make youth with disabilities ‘part of the solution’ to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report from international pan-disability charity Leonard Cheshire has urged.

Crisis Talks:  Raising the global voice of youth with disabilities on the COVID-19 pandemic”, details the views of 545 young people (age 15-35) with disabilities from Indonesia, India, Kenya, South Sudan and Zambia and their experiences in the pandemic. 

Responses were kept anonymous to protect those who contributed to the report, but similar themes emerged in every country where the team conducted the research. 

The team found evidence of increased discrimination against young people with disabilities arising from the pandemic. 

“People are afraid to help us,” said a respondent in South Sudan. “They used to do before the pandemic, but now they fear that we might have COVID-19.”

Across the five countries, young people with disabilities:

  • Were often the first to be furloughed or to lose their jobs
  • Had little access to healthcare information 
  • Lost access to medications
  • Felt excluded when trying to access remote education. 

However, the research also uncovered that these same groups of people had often played leading roles in protecting their communities from the pandemic. Youth with disabilities had helped distribute PPE or spread public health information using local radio stations. 

A young person from Indonesia summed up the determination many felt to be part of an inclusive recovery, telling the team: “We, together, must curb and prevent COVID-19.”

A young person from South Sudan added:

“Since youth with disabilities have got capacity in handling activities like awareness raising, decision making, counselling and sensitization, we need to be better involved in COVID-19 programmes. [But] when programmes are organised we are often not invited, despite many issues being related to us.”

The report summarises the issues raised by country, and analyses government responses to COVID-19. Using the young people’s views, it makes a series of recommendations – more than 45 in all – for ways governments and other actors can be more inclusive as they recover from the pandemic.

Tiziana Oliva, Managing Director - Global Influencing and Programmes at Leonard Cheshire, said: 

“As the research team state in the report, the strongest progress is made together. And yet too often, youth with disabilities have been forgotten in their country’s responses to the pandemic. This is even though they have often played an active part in helping to protect their communities from COVID-19.

“Youth with disabilities have outlined a range of ways that governments and the wider community could respond to improve access, whether that is through supporting employers to retain staff with disabilities, to improve access to healthcare, to factoring people with disabilities into emergency planning. They have been loud and clear. It is now up to us to listen.”

Leonard Cheshire is presenting the report’s findings at the Conference of State Parties tomorrow (18 June) as part of efforts to raise the profile of disabled people following the recent G7 summit in Cornwall.

The full report is now available.

Media enquiries

For further information, interviews and high-res images please contact Samuel Buckley Samuel.buckley@leonardcheshire.org.


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