Our call for the Government’s new Disability Framework to include specific measures to ensure UK aid reaches the world’s most marginalised people

After two years of campaigning for an inquiry, The Leprosy Mission England and Wales is relieved to hear that the government has formally recognised that people with disability need to be included in overseas aid programmes in its response to the IDC’s report issued in April.

Around one billion people – or 15 per cent of the world’s population – are disabled with the vast majority – 80 per cent – living in developing countries.  We know that these people, including those affected by leprosy, too often remain at the fringes of society with little access to the health, housing, education and livelihood programmes funded by DFID.  While these programmes dramatically change the lives of their able-bodied counterparts, people with disabilities continue to live in extreme poverty.

While we welcome the Government’s new Disability Framework (to be published by November 2014) will look to strengthen disability in its policy and programmes, we are specifically calling for measures to be introduced to the Disability Framework to ensure people with disabilities are actually reached.  

Head of Programmes at The Leprosy Mission England and Wales, Sian Arulanantham, is a member of the BOND Disability and Development Group and submitted evidence to the inquiry.

She said:  “It is not enough to simply recognise that people with disabilities are being left behind when it comes to DFID-funded projects.  We need the Framework to set out clear, measurable targets for each DFID-funded programme to ensure these most vulnerable people are being reached.

“We recently polled 5,000 people affected by leprosy across nine countries where we work in Asia and Africa. Leprosy is one of the leading causes of disability in the developing world. The results, overwhelmingly, revealed that while most have noticed better access to education and improved infrastructure since the Millennium as a result of overseas aid, they had not personally benefited.

“The Disability Framework is an opportunity to transform the lives of people with disabilities and it must be grasped.”

While we welcome the Government’s commitment to include disaggregated data on disability as a funding criteria for humanitarian aid programmes, this is only a minor part of DFID’s programmes.  For DFID to be able to assess the effectiveness of its Framework, there needs to be a commitment to disability specific data to be collected across all DFID-funded programmes.

Mrs Arulanantham said:  “The Government’s is pushing its ‘leave no one behind’ agenda as part of the Post-2015 discussions at the UN, but I ask how is this possible if DFID itself has not committed to collecting disaggregated data on its programmes?  It should be leading by example.

“And while we welcome the report’s ongoing commitment to tackling Neglected Tropical Diseases, to date, DFID has only committed to funding guinea worm, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, onchocerciasis, and during this last week Trachoma.  We call for DFID to recognise the disabling nature, stigma and extreme poverty caused by leprosy and the need to invest in tackling this ancient disease that remains a real 21st century problem.”