Press Release

Information Note #13: Support to Persons with Disabilities and COVID-19 Response

06 September 2021

Persons with disabilities in Cambodia face multiple challenges such as inequality and discrimination in access to education, healthcare, employment, social protection, justice, public transport. They are also particularly vulnerable to violence and violations of their basic human rights. Women and girls with disabilities face additional discrimination and barriers when accessing services compared to men with disabilities. According to the 2019 General Population Census, 4.9 per cent of Cambodians (689,532 people) over the age of five reported some difficulty in performing basic functions.

The COVID-19 pandemic threatens all members of society, but many persons with disabilities face inequalities that leave them more exposed. These inequalities, which are heightened for women and girls with disabilities, arise from multiple barriers such as stigma, inaccessibility of infrastructure, transport and information, and the lack of inclusive public policies and services.

The United Nations system in Cambodia welcomes the extensive policy framework put in place by the Government to support a post-COVID recovery that is inclusive of persons with disabilities. The forthcoming adoption of a new disability law (expected in 2022) that will reflect the rights-based approach of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) will lay a solid foundation for future action. The National Disability Strategic Plan 2019-2023 (NDSP2) also provides a framework for action across all ministries and agencies at the national and sub-national levels. In addition, the National Social Protection Policy Framework 2016-2025 (SPPF) outlines a vision to expand coverage and increase coherence between social assistance, social insurance and labour market schemes.

The United Nations (UN) System in Cambodia is actively supporting the Government in its efforts to ensure effective disability-inclusive responses to COVID-19. In addition to the health sector, several UN agencies are focusing on the secondary impacts of the pandemic and contributing specific sectoral support such as social protection, education and employment.

  • The United Nations in collaboration with the Disability Action Council and Organizations of Persons with Disabilities conducted a national situational analysis and assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on the rights and wellbeing of persons with disabilities, as well as a three-year recovery plan. The analysis identified key gaps and opportunities to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on persons with disabilities. These included: poverty and unsustainable livelihoods; discrimination and negative attitudes; gender-based violence against women and girls and older persons with disabilities; information and education; inaccessibility of physical infrastructure; and a lack of reasonable accommodations.
  • The United Nations provided technical support to the Government to ensure equitable and accessible social protection programme for persons with disabilities. As a result, around 59,000 persons with disabilities have had access to the national cash transfer programme during the pandemic.
  • The United Nations provided technical assistance to the Government in promoting and protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, including the right to justice and remedy through the provision of legal aid and capacity-building of justice actors.
  • In the COVID-19 response and recovery plan, United Nations and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) accommodated children with disabilities for their access to continuous learning, including online learning platforms, integrating sign language translation into video clips for learning, making available and providing inclusive education materials and adaptive remedial learning packages which aimed for filling the gaps of their learning loss. At least 29,932 children with disabilities (including 12,562 girls) will benefit from the 760,040 home learning packages currently distributed to grade 1 and 2 children nationwide and, hygiene and sanitation supplies distributed to all 13,482 public schools across the country.
  • The United Nations supported the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY) on the creation of the National (social and rights-based) Disability Identification System that will for the first time be able to identify all children and people with disabilities in the country to improve their access to social protection, social care and livelihood opportunities.  As a result, more than 60,000 persons with disabilities were identified through roll-out of the identification to be completed nationally by end of 2021. On COVID-19 vaccination, through its multiple sector programs with other Ministries, including MoSVY and MOI, the United Nations alongside NGO partners, have worked with local administrative authorities and community structures to facilitate equitable access of COVID-19 vaccination to specific vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities. 80% (1,322 out of 1,646) of communes collected data of persons with disabilities for arranging COVID-19 vaccination. 125,217 persons with disabilities identified, 86,479 persons (69%) were voluntary vaccinated. 17,434 out of 86,479 persons with disabilities were fully vaccinated.
  • The United Nations provided technical support to Government to promote the social inclusion of women and young persons with disabilities in the areas of access to sexual and reproductive health services, information, and education for persons with disabilities, including preventing and addressing sexual violence and Gender-Based Violence.

Challenges remain in the effective mainstreaming of disability into broader policies and plans. There is still much work to be done to build the capacity of government officials, local authorities, other service providers, and the business sector to ensure effective disability inclusion in all responses to the pandemic, including in the development and implementation of laws, policies and plans.

The United Nations seeks to strengthen the capacity of national and sub-national service providers to deliver equitable and accessible basic services, including during emergencies. These include services such as healthcare, social welfare, rehabilitation employment, justice and education, and the protection of vulnerable populations, including persons with disabilities. The three-year recovery plan for persons with disabilities can serve as a roadmap in this regard.

To ensure the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities and their access to services and support will require commitment and creativity from all stakeholders, including but not limited to government agencies, UN agencies and other development partners, International Organizations, NGOs, the business sector and civil society. At the same time, urgent attention is needed to ensure that capacities to address the rights and meet the needs of persons with all types of disabilities for services and support in or near their communities are available, appropriate and accessible.

Most importantly, persons with disabilities must be at the center of recovery planning. No one knows better the challenges and barriers that must be overcome to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, restore a sense of wellbeing and enjoy the same rights and access to services, supports, and opportunities on an equal basis with others.


UN Cambodia’s Response to COVID-19 Information Notes are official documents from the United Nations in Cambodia intended for the media and other partners. They are prepared by the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator.

Information Note #13: Support to Persons with Disabilities and COVID-19 Response

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Sreysros Keo

Programme Communications and Advocacy Officer

UN entities involved in this initiative

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
United Nations Population Fund
World Health Organization

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