1.1   ADD International, UK based INGO having five country programmes in Africa and Asia, fight for the independence, equality and opportunity for persons with disabilities living in poverty. It supports Disabled People’s Organisations (DPOs) to secure access to services, challenge discrimination, and campaign for inclusive policies. 


1.2   This submission focuses on the challenges and learning in the following areas relevant to ADD’s programmes: 1. Economic and Food Security and the impact on Livelihoods; and 2. Treatment of Women and Girls and Gender-Based Violence. 




2.1   Since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared, ADD International garnered evidence from the country programmes; the impact of COVID-19 was significant and disproportionate on persons with disabilities in developing countries. ADD’s COVID-19 rapid evidence gathering response was a collaborative effort with DPOs across three countries – Bangladesh, Cambodia and Uganda, which has culminated in three papers: COVID Double Jeopardy, COVID Violence Risk and Income Loss, and DPO COVID Impact and Action. They are available here: 


2.2   The evidence presents a stark picture. Persons with disabilities face significant livelihood losses and greater risks of violence, and experienced catastrophic economic setbacks of losing income and employment. However, DPOs played a critical role in re-establishing livelihoods and supporting women with disabilities who were at risk of domestic abuse and violence. 


2.3   Key Recommendations: We believe the new FCDO can reaffirm its global leadership on disability inclusion in COVID-19 response and recovery by taking actions to:










3.1   Since our previous submissions, the economic setbacks of COVID-19 have deeply affected the lives of persons with disabilities. Interviews with 218 DPO partner members in Bangladesh, Cambodia and Uganda reveal that respondents on average have lost most of their monthly earnings since COVID-19 began. In Uganda, respondents report an average monthly household income loss of 64%; respondents in Cambodia report a 52% loss. A June 2020 Bangladesh survey conducted revealed that respondents with disabilities have lost 65% of their income since the COVID-19 crisis began, which in absolute terms, after adjusting for purchasing power parity, is the equivalent of moving from £167 to £58 in monthly earnings. A larger study of the broader population over the same period found monthly earnings drop from £530 to £153, which percentagewise is a greater loss, but arguably less devastating when considering absolute levels of income[1].


3.2   Economic loss and exacerbated poverty conditions lead to compounded risks. Interviewed DPO leaders in Bangladesh report that members are exposed to higher health risks: ‘The people who are daily wager are putting all effort to survive, don’t looking for or observe safety measures.’ Statistical testing from this study in Bangladesh also suggests that respondents with difficulty hearing appear to be at increased risk of economic violence compared to their peers without difficulty hearing[2]


3.3   Similarly, in Cambodia, respondents report not having the same access to COVID-19 survival support (local distribution of food, water, basic supplies or cash support) as others, also highlighting that COVID-19 impact on livelihoods is felt differently by different groups. Interviewed persons with difficulty remembering suffer greater income loss than their peers; those reporting difficulty with self-care are more likely to have lost their job; and those who report difficulty communicating report greater reductions in dependent economic support. These differences suggest that livelihood mitigation measures that take a differentiated approach may be more effective.


3.4   Food security is also highly at risk: the primary concern of respondents is meeting food needs, and, of the interviewed respondents in Cambodia, Bangladesh and Uganda, 58% report that they are eating fewer meals. Longer term, inclusive support to increase food security and reduce violence related to less-secure livelihood is needed.


3.5   We continue to highlight that DPOs play a critical role in supporting persons with disabilities and in contributing to the re-establishment of livelihoods. In Bangladesh, DPOs are engaging with power holders to make relief, livelihood support and information accessible to persons with disabilities. DPOs are in touch with their members. Our evidence from Cambodia suggests that DPO’s are identifying individuals, assessing needs, and mobilising response. From member interviews, we also see evidence that DPOs play a role as awareness-raisers and linkage-builders.


3.6   Recommendations:










4.1   We know from our existing work that gender-based violence is an issue of power and control, and that the low economic and social status of women and girls with disabilities makes them more vulnerable to violence and abuse, and less able to seek protection or support. We have seen this dynamic intensified in the context of COVID-19 isolation where economic pressures are increased, where women with disabilities can no longer contribute their earnings, and where the ‘more powerful’ household members have lost their sense of control.


4.2   Our country reports for Cambodia, Tanzania and Bangladesh show that levels of violence against women and girls with disabilities have increased as a result of the social and economic impact of COVID-19Reported violence risk increase is mostly psychological and economic, higher among older respondents and most pronounced among those who already experienced medium to very high risk of violence before COVID-19. In Cambodia, 2 in 5 respondents report they are at an increased risk of violence during COVID-19. Seven of ten interviewed leaders report this increased risk is felt both at home and in the community.


4.3   Yet again in this context, we have seen that DPOs have been supporting those at higher risk. Interviewed DPO leaders in Cambodia report that their organisations are taking action to support women and girls with disabilities who may be at risk of violence during this time. One DPO leader reports that their organisation establishes village committees to report and support violence case and intervention.


4.4   In Tanzania, ADD and two women’s rights-focused DPOs (VODIWOTA and SHIVYAWATA Women) have initiated a multi-tier, multi-partnership policy and advocacy project that seeks to strengthen resultant action on the intersection between gender and disability inclusion and the compounded risks faced by women and girls with disabilities.


4.5   Recommendations: 





For further information please contact Mosharraf Hossain, email:



[1] Brac June 2020. Economic Impact of Covid-19 and Way forward for Bangladesh.

[2] The p-value for this estimate is 0.0607, which meets the 0.1 convention for statistical significance.