UNDP in Ukraine advocates for disability inclusion at UN event

June 10, 2024
Photo: Vladyslav Kondratenko / UNDP in Ukraine.

New York, 10 June 2024 – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Ukraine, in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine and the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations, hosted an impactful side event titled “Inclusion of People with Disabilities in Crisis Response Situations” at the 17th session of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. 

The event, financially supported by the Government of Japan, featured a full agenda that included discussions on the rapid increase in disabilities due to the Russian invasion and mine-explosive injuries, the state’s role in rehabilitation, and the provision of assistive devices. 

Ukraine is now the world’s largest minefield, with approximately a quarter of its territory potentially affected. According to the data from the Main Department of Mine Action, Civil Protection, and Environmental Safety, nearly 6 million citizens live under the constant threat of explosive remnants of war, which is significantly increasing the number of people with disabilities who require immediate and ongoing support. As of early 2024, approximately 3 million people in Ukraine were living with disabilities, up from around 2.7 million before the full-scale invasion, underscoring the urgent need for comprehensive rehabilitation and support programmes.

Participants at the side event shared experiences and best practices for integrating persons with disabilities into active social life, rethinking disability inclusion, fostering international cooperation for technological innovations, and advocating for the rights of persons with disabilities to ensure decent work and sustainable livelihoods.

Nick Rene Hartmann, Deputy Assistant Administrator and Deputy Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia at UNDP, underscored the severe challenges faced by people with disabilities in Ukraine.

“Ukraine holds the tragic distinction of being the world’s most potentially explosive ordnance-contaminated country,” Hartmann said. “This presents real risks to life and health and significantly increases the number of people with disabilities who require immediate and ongoing support.” He stressed the need for a coordinated approach to rehabilitation.

Tetiana Lomakina, Advisor-Commissioner of the President of Ukraine for a Barrier-Free Environment, delivered a keynote address, illustrating the grim realities for Ukrainians with disabilities amidst the conflict. 

“Imagine waking up in a city occupied by an enemy, where you have no access to basic utilities and are isolated,” she said. “Now, imagine this scenario while being confined to a wheelchair. This is the reality for many Ukrainians today.” Her narrative highlighted the urgent need for inclusive crisis response mechanisms.

Olena Kulchytska, Advisor to the Minister of Social Policy of Ukraine, provided an in-depth overview of the Model of Victim Assistance in Mine Action, developed by the UNDP in Ukraine with financial support from the Japanese government. 

“The Model of Victim Assistance in Mine Action in Ukraine aims to ensure access to comprehensive support for affected individuals and communities, enhance public awareness, and promote accessible and inclusive environments for all,” Kulchytska said. 

The UNDP in Ukraine is committed to addressing the needs of people with disabilities through comprehensive rehabilitation and support programmes. These initiatives include providing rehabilitation centres with cutting-edge equipment, ensuring victims of explosive ordnance receive necessary care, and facilitating socio-economic integration through vocational training and employment opportunities.

Media enquiries: Yuliia Samus, UNDP Ukraine Head of Communications; e-mail: yuliia.samus@undp.org