Statement by Gilbert Houngbo, President of IFAD, on the occasion of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities 2020
03 December 2020
This year, the world community is honouring the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by seeking to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind in our response to the COVID-19 pandemic and in the recovery.
Even without the pandemic, one billion persons with disabilities routinely face barriers such as discrimination and limited access to education and employment. They are more likely to live in poverty, suffer poor nutrition, and experience higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse. They are among the most marginalized people in rural communities.
In his policy brief A Disability-Inclusive Response to COVID-19, the United Nations Secretary-General highlighted that the pandemic is intensifying these inequalities and producing new threats. Persons with disabilities are disproportionately affected by the health, social and economic impacts of COVID-19.
The pandemic, however, also presents a unique opportunity to include persons with disabilities in our response to COVID-19 and, during recovery, to build a more inclusive and accessible society in consultation with persons with disabilities. While building back better, we need to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind. Instead, we must ensure they are at the centre of all our efforts, as agents of planning and implementation.
What are we doing?
In addressing the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, we seek to support those rural people who are at greatest risk of falling back into poverty or food insecurity and who are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19. Through its projects, IFAD gives priority to those who are disproportionately affected. We are planning our operational response to COVID-19 through a disability-inclusive lens.
First, as we reconfigure our existing projects to take account of COVID-19, we make sure that persons with disabilities are not left behind. In Tunisia, for example, extra funds have been allocated to the national social protection programme, which specifically targets rural persons with disabilities and their households.
Second, IFAD’s rapid-response Rural Poor Stimulus Facility gives priority to those rural people who are at greatest risk of falling back into poverty or food insecurity and who are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19, including those with disabilities. A number of projects specifically target persons with disabilities. For example, in Sierra Leone, agricultural inputs and know-how are helping persons with disabilities boost vegetable and groundnut production, enabling them to both feed their families and increase their income.
Finally, in speeding the recovery, we ensure that the voices of persons with disabilities are heard, especially through engagement with organizations such as the International Disability Alliance. In the coming year, IFAD will develop a strategy to better include persons with disabilities in its wider operations.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its powerful but simple mission to “Leave No One Behind” is a potent driver for inclusion. Building more inclusive and resilient societies must be at the core of everything we do during and after the COVID-19 crisis. IFAD is committed to working with our partners toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post–COVID-19 world.