Humanitarian crises monitoring: impact of coronavirus

CBM UK response to IDC inquiry



CBM (Christian Blind Mission) works with partners across the world to bring change at an individual level, challenge systemic discrimination and support the voice and power of people with disabilities as agents of change, in development and humanitarian settings.


The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting on the life of each person across the world and proves now, more than ever, how interdependent the global population is. Whilst the spread of the pandemic started from upper-middle and high income countries, the virus is now impacting low and middle income countries (LMICs). Containment strategies of isolation, social distancing, hand washing and working from home are particularly challenging in areas with weak health systems, over-crowding, poor sanitation, and poor social protection - more typical in LMICs.


Any response to slow the spread, treat those with the virus and plan for long term social and economic recovery must be inclusive of people with disabilities and mental health conditions, acknowledging that marginalised groups are at increased risk of being excluded or abandoned both during and after the crisis. Persons with disabilities face additional challenges where information is not available in accessible formats and in maintaining social distancing where they rely on personal assistance or care; and people with mental health conditions may face heightened anxiety, especially in the absence or inaccessibility of support systems.


CBM UK is in contact with country offices and partners across the world, monitoring the impact of the crisis on people with disabilities and their communities. CBM staff working on our AcT2 programme in Tanzania, for example, have faced additional difficulties in engaging with the partner, especially in cases of persons with deafblindness where communication necessarily involves close contact. More than 80% of the usual activities involve physical interactions with communities, and with the COVID-19 measures of social distancing and self-isolation it is not possible to implement the programme - especially where people with disabilities are classed as a vulnerable group.


CBM UK welcomes the Department for International Development’s (DfID) engagement with INGOs and recognition of the development and humanitarian sectors as key stakeholders in the response to the pandemic in LMICs. However, we are concerned that the £20m allocation of funding to UK-based INGOs is far too limited to achieve a meaningful response; and that smaller organisations with expertise in disability inclusion risk being left out in favour of larger organisations or consortia.


CBM UK has a number of key recommendations to Government for ensuring that the UK’s global response promotes the rights and inclusion of persons with disabilities and mental health conditions, through international advocacy, funding and programmatic efforts.





1.    Policy and international advocacy


1.1      International cooperation on the global COVID-19 response is paramount, and should be inclusive of persons with disabilities – in terms of who is reached and who is involved in decision-making processes - in line with Article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).

1.2      The Government should consider immediate debt relief as recommended by the World Bank and IMF, including for countries that may struggle to qualify, to ensure that governments have funds available to respond in ways that reach all citizens, including persons with disabilities.

1.3      The UK Government, through its bilateral and multilateral diplomatic relations, should urge governments to reject any measures that would lead to the institutionalisation of persons with disabilities and mental health conditions as part of the COVID-19 response.


2.    Funding and programmes


2.1      DfID should allow flexibility/ pivoting within current funding awards to meet COVID-19 related demands. These programmes offer existing infrastructure and contact with people with disabilities and mental health conditions and therefore adaptations can provide an appropriate response at no extra cost.

2.2      Any new funding for COVID-19 specific responses whilst needing to be rapid should continue to be run through transparent processes and require disability inclusion. It is also important to ensure that smaller, specialist agencies are not disadvantaged or overlooked in tendering or awarding processes.

2.3      It is important that money and resources are directed not only towards health interventions but also to accessible communication and other needs, as identified by persons with disabilities and their representative bodies.

2.4      DfID should engage with Disabled Persons’ Organisations (DPOs) or their umbrella bodies on any programmatic response or funding opportunities; and channel funding through local groups, including faith-based organisations who are embedded within communities and well-placed to meet local needs.

2.5      Any disability specific programmes in response to COVID-19 should also take into account intersectional characteristics that compound risk of exclusion, for example gender and age.




3.    Policy and international advocacy


3.1      The long-term impact of COVID-19 can only be estimated at present but it is likely to have an impact on the Governments foreign policy objectives, and therefore should be included in the Integrated Review on Defence, Development and Foreign Policy. The needs of people with disabilities and other marginalised groups must also be considered within this and efforts to minimize risk of crises, conflict or state collapse as a result of the pandemic.

3.2      The UK has a key role to play in ensuring there is no roll back on rights enshrined in the CRPD as a result of the pandemic, through advocacy with bilateral and multilateral partners; and using frameworks such as the Global Disability Summit Accountability Mechanism.

3.3      Whilst UK action to tackle the pandemic through vaccine development will have global benefits, it is important to monitor any UK-based spend intended for classification as official development assistance (ODA) and ensure that long-term DAC rules are followed, to ensure that UK aid is used for poverty reduction and reaches the most left behind, such as persons with disabilities


4.    Funding and programmes


4.1           The COVID-19 pandemic containment measures are likely to have a significant impact on the mental health of the global population. DfID should direct increased funding towards mental health interventions as part of the longer term response.

4.2           Future aid and funding focused on economic empowerment and social protection must also be inclusive of persons with disabilities and should take a twin-track approach, acknowledging specific barriers to economic participation that people with disabilities will have faced during the pandemic.

4.3           Overall, DfID should seek to maintain its commitment to the Strategy for Disability Inclusive Development and Global Disability Summit Commitments, and ‘build back better’ to ensure disability inclusion as the world works towards recovery.






CBM UK, Oakington Business Park, Dry Drayton Road, Oakington, Cambridge CB24 3DQ

Contact Rachel Aston, Policy Manager at