International Day of Persons with Disabilities| An inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 Zimbabwe

The UN Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities requires Countries to ensure equal access to facilities and services. 

Honourable Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Professor Paul Mavima

Your Excellency Honourable Minister Apollonia Munzverengwi,

National Disability Board Chairperson-Ms Mercy Maunganidze,

Excellencies, colleagues and friends,

The United Nations Family is delighted to be part of this auspicious occasion to commemorate International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This year’s theme “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World” is extremely timely and relevant.  Disability inclusion is a fundamental human right and the COVID-19 pandemic risks undermining many hard-won gains made by people living with disabilities.

This day presents an opportunity for all of us to collectively reflect on progress and challenges so far in our journey to promote the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities. It is also a reminder that much remains to be done to ensure that we truly become an inclusive society for persons with disabilities in all aspects of society and development globally and in Zimbabwe.

The United Nations, through the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability  and its United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy recognizes that the rights of persons with disabilities are central to the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They embody the pledge to leave no one behind, through transformative and lasting change, particularly, during times of crisis.

The UN Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities requires Countries to ensure equal access to facilities and services. 

Of the one billion persons living with disabilities globally, 80% live in developing countries. Almost half of all people aged 60 years and over live with disabilities. One in every five women is likely to experience disability in her life, while one in every ten children is a child with a disability. In Zimbabwe, the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionate affected persons with disabilities in Zimbabwe.

I have also noted with concern, the growing number of COVID-19 cases and the inevitable impact of the pandemic on the socio-economic, health and general well-being of persons with disabilities in both urban and rural areas.

Persons with disabilities are severely exposed and affected because of their specific conditions and needs. In addition, persons with disability have lost their livelihoods or have limited ability to undertake informal livelihoods activities, accessing health and education services, food & nutrition, COVID-19 information and gender-based violence.

Addressing the current challenges and barriers faced by persons with disabilities requires commitment and creativity. It also presents a unique opportunity to design and implement disability-inclusive COVID-19 response and recovery, and build more inclusive and accessible societies, in consultation with persons with disabilities.

When we secure the rights of persons with disabilities, we invest in our common future. The UN Family have been engaged in promoting a systematic disability inclusive Covid-19 response through various initiatives. These include the Spotlight Initiative as well as the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with disabilities (UNPRPD) Initiative.  Since the onset of the pandemic, UN Agencies have had consultation with various stakeholders; Ministry of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare (particularly the Department of Disability Affairs), the National Disability Board, the President’s Advisor on Disability Affairs, Disability umbrella bodies NASCOH &  FODPZ, Organization of Persons with Disabilities for a pragmatic disability inclusive response.

As part of the UN’s efforts to promote a disability inclusive COVID-19 response and recovery in Zimbabwe, the United Nations Partnership on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNPRPD) project continues to collaborate closely with Government, Organizations of Persons with Disabilities(OPDs) to strengthen the rights of persons with disability within the context of  the National COVID-19 response and recovery plan.

On this International Day of Persons With Disabilities, as the UN team, I’d like to re-state our continued commitment to work hand in hand with Government, communities of Persons with Disabilities, civil society, and all other partners. Through global solidarity we will prevail in our efforts to create a more inclusive and equitable society.

Speech by
Maria Ribeiro
Resident Coordinator
 Maria Ribeiro
UN entities involved in this initiative
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office