Down Syndrome International (DSi) is calling on all parties involved in the current conflict in Ukraine to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law, to ensure protection and safety for persons with Down syndrome and disabilities in Ukraine.

Article 11 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, ratified by both Russia and Ukraine and United Nations Security Council Resolution 2475, create clear obligations, that cannot be suspended even in a state of emergency, to ensure equal protection and safety for all persons with disabilities, as well as timely and unimpeded access to humanitarian assistance.

We also call on all humanitarian actors to ensure fulfilment of international humanitarian standards, including the IASC Guidelines on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action.

Any international decisions, resolutions or measures adopted to address the situation in Ukraine, must be inclusive of persons with disabilities, facilitating their participation in decisions that affect them.

In the words of Yannis Vardakastanis, President of International Disability Alliance and European Disability Forum:

“War is the biggest violation of human rights, including rights of persons with disabilities and must end immediately. In the meanwhile, all involved parties must fully respect their international obligations to ensure protection and safety for persons with disabilities”.

Why persons with disabilities are at risk

In any situation of humanitarian crisis or armed conflict, persons with Down syndrome and other disabilities face disproportionate impact and risk of abandonment, violence, death, and a lack of access to safety, relief, protection, assistance and recovery support.

Women with disabilities are at increased risk of sexual violence and children with disabilities are more exposed to abuse and neglect. Crucial information on safety and evacuation is often inaccessible, and evacuation centres themselves are also rarely accessible, meaning that persons with Down syndrome and other disabilities are too often left behind.

There are 2.7 million persons with disabilities registered in Ukraine. We have heard from contacts in the country that the situation for persons with disabilities is appalling. For example, shelters in Kiev are inaccessible, so people with disabilities are forced to stay at home, not knowing where they can go to be safe.

Persons with Down syndrome and other disabilities living in institutions, are already cut off from their communities and risk being abandoned and forgotten.

What we want to see

We call on the political leadership and all humanitarian actors dealing with this crisis to ensure that persons with Down syndrome and disabilities:

  • have full access to all humanitarian aid;
  • are protected from violence, abuse and ill treatment;
  • are provided with accessible information about safety and assistance protocols, evacuation procedures and support;
  • have full access to basic services including water and sanitation, food, social support, education, healthcare, transport and information;
  • are accounted for and not abandoned;
  • are not left behind in institutions, are not forced to remain in institutions or are not moved into institutions on the basis of their disability and
  • are meaningfully involved in all inclusive humanitarian action, through their representative organisations.

Along with persons with Down syndrome, particular attention must be paid to those who are most at risk – including (but not limited to) persons with intellectual disabilities, women, older persons, children, blind and deafblind persons, persons with psychosocial disabilities, persons with high support needs and persons internally displaced before recent incidents.

DSi will do all we can to help

DSi will continue to monitor the situation, by remaining in contact with our members in the effected regions. We will also work alongside and are grateful to, international and regional partners and DSi members who, like us, are advocating in the strongest possible terms for the protection and safety of persons with Down syndrome and disabilities.