Disabled people must not be forgotten during the outbreak of coronavirus
Persons with disabilities must not be left behind during the pandemic of Covid-19, stated Dunja Mijatović, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe.
In a special statement, she underlined that governments in Europe reacting to the rapid spread of the coronavirus must not forget about many people living with disabilities. These persons have an increased risk of serious health complications and they also have particular support needs. States must ensure that these people still use essential services and receive necessary protection.
Mijatović reminds that 46 out of 47 countries of the Council of Europe ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Ukraine ratified it in 2009 – ed.). According to this convention states should take “all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters”.
Human Rights Commissioner says that most member states rightly imposed safety measures during the pandemic but social distancing and self-isolation may be impossible for disabled people. She expresses her deep concerns about the growing risk of disruption of essential support services for people with disabilities. In the current crisis, these services are facing serious problems including staff shortage. Mijatovićcalls on the Council of Europe member states to do everything possible to resolve such problems including relaxing recruitment procedures and providing financial aid to persons with disabilities.
The Commissioner reminds that many persons with disabilities in Europe are also still deprived of their liberty in large residential settings, including institutions and psychiatric hospitals despite states’ international obligations and calls from international human rights bodies. Most recently Mijatović’s office pointed out that this situation exists in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania and Armenia. According to the Commissioner, residents in such institutions often face neglect and inadequate health care but with the pandemic, they become even more exposed to risks.