Two main topics for this month’s update:
A. Disabled people in Ukraine
B. An exhibition of the history of GAD in Greenwich, London
A. Ukraine and Disabled People
Currently the European Disability Forum (EDF) is convening an online meeting each Thursday to discuss what can be done to help disabled people in Ukraine. These meetings are open to any EDF member organisation or individual members, and where recently only one person present was from the UK.
EDF is not the only organisation to respond on this issue, but it does have useful connections and suggestions. Within the UK the main coordination is by DEC, the Disasters Emergency Committee.
Currently the best information on the context is:
1. There are *at least* 40,000 disabled people in Ukraine living in institutions, some people feel the number will turn out to be "much higher".
2. There are many children in Ukraine living in orphanages, and many are expected to be disabled children.
3. Medical supplies and medical volunteers are in short supply, being sent forward from institutions to the combat areas for casualties, plus shortages with general medical supplies and difficulties getting them into the country at all.
4. Hungary has sent in some accessible mini-coaches, each one for around 8 disabled passengers, to help with ferrying evacuations.
5. Sending money remains a general priority.
6. No information yet on disability organisations in Poland and the strains on them receiving displaced disabled people from Ukraine.
NEXT MEETING: Ukraine War and Work of the UN agencies
EDF 28 April, 12 – 1:30 CET (11am – 12.30pm UK time)
"Following the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the European Disability Forum (EDF) is hosting a sequence of short webinars about specific topics relevant to the war and their impact on persons with disabilities. These meetings are for EDF members. The fourth meeting will focus on “the work of the UN agencies”.
Speakers from various agencies (OHCHR, UNICEF, PRPD and IOM) will present their work in Ukraine. It will be an opportunity to ask questions, learn more about their coordination mechanisms and exchange contact information."
B. Greenwich Association of Disabled People – GAD, and its sister org Metro.
I was honoured to be invited to the recent launch of a Metro-GAD exhibition on the history of GAD, and the a PDF file is available with a series of rough photographs of the exhibit panels, photos, t-shirts and objects on display.
It is a modest exhibition, being in the corridor of their offices, with photos, panels, t-shirts etc hung on the wall plus a few objects on display. Some people will recognise the photo of Brenda Hilditch, and the work of Alison Blake, both of this parish.
Three posters were of particular interest – these posters are from a project Sue Elsegood, Steve Gray and April Bird were involved in 1998 – 2001. There is also a fourth poster but there wasn’t room to include it. The project was with the Brook Advisory organisation, specific to London, though for example the mum and daughter who agreed to be photographed were living in Wales at the time.
The building is opposite the Woolwich Arsenal bus and train station in south London, but as a working office with security doors people are asked to contact beforehand if planning to visit the exhibition.
Headline is: an estimated 100,000 disabled children living in institutions in Ukraine; plus an unknown number of disabled adults.
Details: this is an update on the Research Bulletin two days ago, based on messages received since then, with thanks:
1. An additional meeting on Disabled Children in Ukraine, Thurs 5 May (details below). “It is rather astonishing that there are supposed to be 100,000 disabled children [living] in institutions in the Ukraine before the war! Goodness knows where they are now and what shape they are in?”
2. “The organisation from Hungary is saying they transport people in their accessible vans, and then take them to institutions in Hungary and also neighbouring countries. This is at the instruction of the Government. [We asked if] there’s any way people could be taken to Scandinavia. But [name] just wrote that people are [being] placed in nursing homes even in Sweden!”
3. “On the number of people in institutions, there is … no [exact] number for adults, but there are many, many institutions [in Ukraine]. Also, children graduate from children’s institutions into adult ones. … most [disability] organisations are parent [-led] ones and [not DPOs].
Some further information on disabled children and adults in and leaving Ukraine:
Bear in mind this is second-hand reporting, and thanks to my contacts.
The main focus for international agencies is on unaccompanied children, including unaccompanied disabled children.
From reports in Poland, around 1 in 8 displaced persons are disabled people (all ages). This very probably includes frail elderly people.
The effort is on trying to build international standards, so there can be consistency and portability for displaced disabled people (ie adults and children) as they move between countries.
Slovakia has a good system for their child protection services knowing children’s needs, and this may be replicated in nearby countries. By contrast, in Ukraine reportedly only 1% of disabled children were registered with the authorities.
Many of the displaced disabled people (all ages) are moving currently into Germany and Poland.
As the war started, a Refugee Response Plan was developed in March 2022 by various international agencies, with a "small chapter" on disabled refugees.
"BLUE DOT" Hubs
There are (it seems from reports) 19 BLUE DOT or hub locations currently, and a total of 31 is planned for, where displaced people can get information, support and services. These include assessment and referral, mental health support, legal aid, counselling, restoring family links, child and family-friendly spaces.
There are also some LIGHT BLUE DOT hubs planned which will have a smaller number of services, and work is underway to develop a DIGITAL BLUE DOT version.
From experience so far in Poland, about 1 in 8 of the displaced people passing through and registering with their Blue Dots hubs are disabled people (all ages).
Disabled people are being prioritised for air transport evacuation from Moldova to other EU countries, so far about 1,000 disabled people.
In terms of disabled people’s needs and common standards, the Blue Dot hubs are using the "Washington Group Questions" as their common system to describe the needs of disabled people, on the basis that every country can make use this, avoiding the use of conflicting local schemes as disabled people move between countries.
The focus of some of the UN agencies is try to sustain the support services in-country within Ukraine for the disabled people who still live there, and for those who plan to return. This is starting with the priority on the basic needs of people in institutions. "Emergency clusters" are also planned, details are not known.
Neighbouring countries are also supporting additional services to document violations, including GBV (gender-based violence), counter-trafficking and child protection.
Also a frank note from me based on some emails seen between officials – it seems the international agencies are not expected much practical help from the UK agencies, but in return the UK government is being fully expected to pay significant funds in aid to international agencies to provide this support.