Our project investigates multiple and intersecting impacts of COVID-19 on people with disabilities in Ukraine, with a particular focus on internally displaced persons with disabilities. This project is funded by Global Challenges Research Fund / Arts and Humanities Research Council.
In September 2020, a comprehensive assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on the socio-economic situation in Ukraine (UN Ukraine 2020) confirmed the devastating impact of the pandemic and its disproportionate impact on the economic and social rights of groups in vulnerable situations, including conflict-affected persons, internally displaced persons, and persons with disabilities.
According to UNHCR Ukraine (2021:1), there were 1.62 million conflict-affected persons and 734,000 internally displaced persons in Ukraine as of February 2021. As of January 2020, there were 2,703,006 persons with disabilities (SSSU 2020), and as of June 2020, 14% of internally displaced households in Ukraine reported having a family member with a disability (UN Migration 2020).
In addition to dis/ability and dis/location, intersecting inequalities of gender, age and socioeconomic status in Ukraine have been compounded by the pandemic restricting and, increasingly, halting access to healthcare, education, social protection, work and employment for the most vulnerable (UNICEF Ukraine 2020). Limited research is available on the scale and nature of challenges faced by these groups, including specific hardships faced by people with disabilities and, in particular, internally displaced people with disabilities in Ukraine.
This research project provides an in-depth qualitative assessment of the multifaceted impacts of the coronavirus pandemic on internally displaced PDWs in Ukraine. We are researching and working together, in a participatory and emancipatory manner, with people with disabilities (including those in the situation of protracted internal displacement) and with key stakeholders at the national and regional levels (including government agencies, international, national and regional NGOs led by and/or working with people with disabilities). Recognising the urgency in assessing the impact of the pandemic and the limitations imposed by social distancing measures and travel restrictions, the project relies on a combination of qualitative research methods (co-designed with the representatives of community organisations led by/working with people with disabilities) to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on the intersecting inequalities of (dis)location, disability, gender and age.
We are engaging with more than one hundred organisations led by/working with PWDs in Ukraine by setting up an online survey to record unique organisational perspectives on the impact of the pandemic and their views on potential strategies for inclusive recovery. To document the impact of the pandemic on the daily lives of internally displaced PWDs, we are undertaking a telephone/video-conferencing survey of 300 persons with disabilities and/or their carers from 10 regions of Ukraine, which host the largest number of internally displaced people. This is complemented by a system of written and/or audio/video diaries recorded by PWDs over the period of 8 weeks to understand the disrupting impact of the pandemic on their daily lives, and which policy and practical interventions may be urgently required in response.