While many Palestine refugees face difficulties due to their protracted displacement, being a Palestine refugee with disabilities compounds these difficulties.
Palestine refugees with disabilities have the same basic needs as other refugees, including shelter, income, education, health care and food. They may also have additional or specific needs, such as the need to access rehabilitation or assistive devices, which when not addressed or overlooked can result in their exclusion from services and isolation from society. Often the most significant barriers to effective participation and inclusion of persons with disabilities are the negative attitudes and stereotypes they encounter. Stigma associated with disability often manifests in families and communities keeping children with disabilities hidden, making them invisible and cutting them off from vital services such as education.
Adopted in 2010, the UNRWA Disability Policy embodies the main principles, concepts and language of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which reaffirms the full and equal enjoyment of human rights for all persons with disabilities and focuses strongly on non-discrimination of persons with disabilities in all social and political domains.
The UNRWA Disability Policy commits the Agency to working with all Palestine refugees including persons with disabilities to achieve their full potential in human development. In doing so, UNRWA strives to enable the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by Palestine refugees with disabilities, including their rights to basic education, health care, an adequate standard of living and adequate housing.
UNRWA also endorsed the Charter on Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Action at the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016, indicating the Agency’s commitment to removing barriers to humanitarian relief, protection and recovery support for persons with disabilities.
To further operationalize the UNRWA Disability Policy and other commitments, in May 2017, UNRWA finalised Disability Inclusion Guidelines which aim to create an Agency-wide understanding of key disability principles and practices, provide advice about disability inclusion across UNRWA operations, and help Agency staff to meet commitments under the CRPD and the Agency’s Medium Term Strategy for 2016-2021.
Persons with disabilities are often excluded, either directly or indirectly, from development processes and humanitarian action because of structural, attitudinal, and institutional barriers. The effects of this exclusion are increased inequality, discrimination and marginalization. To change this, UNRWA has committed to implementing a twin-track approach towards disability inclusion. The twin-track approach involves: (1) ensuring all core programmes, such as education, health, relief and social services, and infrastructure and camp improvement, are inclusive and accessible to Palestine refugees with disabilities, while at the same time (2) providing targeted disability-specific support, such as the implementation of the Disability Programme in all five fields of operations, in order to address particular vulnerabilities, to facilitate rehabilitation, to equalize opportunity for persons with disabilities and to facilitate their inclusion.
Additionally, each year, UNRWA marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December) through events and activities at the field level and headquarters to promote awareness and mobilize support for critical issues relating to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society and in all development and humanitarian actions.
*Last updated: March 2018