Assessment of Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Response

Assessment of Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Response

Published: May 28, 2024
Publisher: USAID/BHA and Making Cents International

Elizabeth Carosella

Key Findings
  1. There are many promising approaches to improving disability inclusion in humanitarian programming, including new policies within USAID and implementing partners (IPs) that shift the paradigm toward empowerment and meaningful inclusion of persons with disabilities; examples include efforts to collect data on persons with disabilities, intervention adaptations that address physical access accommodations in several program sectors, and the establishment of community committees that include persons with disabilities to deliver feedback during program implementation.
  2. While BHA has made some progress, our review revealed notable gaps. For example, across both BHA and IPs, understanding of disability inclusion is limited while there is an over-emphasis on visible disabilities, which are usually physical, that excludes those with unseen/unapparent disabilities. Persons with disabilities are largely absent from most stages of the humanitarian program cycle, and we found few examples of meaningful engagement or leadership in BHA programs. Disability inclusion also appears to compete for limited resources with other humanitarian priorities such as scaling up programs, minimizing costs per beneficiary, and other elements of social inclusion agendas.
  3. We provided more than 30 recommendations for how BHA and other humanitarian actors might address the notable gaps above. Examples include establishing guidelines for data disaggregation, expanding illustrative indicators to include measures of disability inclusion, and encouraging qualitative information gathering. We also recommended developing guidance for and encouraging disability-inclusive budgeting during the program design phase to improve disability-inclusive project staffing, implementation, and partnerships.

Comprising 16 percent of the global population, persons with disabilities are often at risk of the worst impacts of emergencies and are excluded from meaningful participation in emergency response and early recovery programs. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and its Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) have recognized the urgency of strengthening disability inclusion to fulfill BHA’s mission to save lives, alleviate suffering, and promote inclusive growth.

To understand the current status, gaps, and opportunities to advance disability inclusion in humanitarian response, Mathematica conducted a global review and analysis of active and recently concluded BHA programs across 13 different program sectors in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. To do so, Mathematica conducted a document review and interviewed 21 representatives from BHA’s IPs, organizations specializing in disability inclusion, and disabled persons organizations/organizations of disabled persons (DPOs/OPDs). 

The review identified opportunities and gaps, and formulated recommendations to advance disability inclusion related to guidance for IPs, staffing and human resources approaches, capacity strengthening, data collection and analysis, reporting and accountability, and partnership.

This work was funded by USAID and implemented through the Inclusive Development Activity for Mission Support (IDAMS), which is led by Making Cents International.  

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