Trinity College Dublin: Intentional inclusion of people with disabilities in the fight against hunger

Trinity College Dublin and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) hosted an online event last week focusing on the intentional inclusion of people with disabilities in the fight against hunger.

The event, took place in advance of the international day of persons with disabilities [Fri, Dec 3rd] and marked the first year of a research partnership between Trinity and the WFP. The focus of this partnership is the development of an evidence base for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in WFP food and nutrition assistance programmes. The Trinity project team is led by Dr Caroline Jagoe, Assistant Professor in Clinical Speech and Language Studies, with Research Fellow, Claire O’Reilly, who is an experienced humanitarian with a background in physiotherapy.

The webinar was opened by WFP’s Deputy Executive Director, Amir Abdulla, followed by a speech by Gerard Quinn, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. A panel discussion featuring Trinity researchers and their WFP colleagues also took place.

The World Food Programme, recipient of the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, is the world’s largest humanitarian organisation and, as the global body mandated with achieving “zero hunger”, it undertakes food assistance and food-related assistance programming in over 80 countries.

WFP’s Deputy Executive Director, Amir Abdulla explained:

“Around the world, in the crises, disasters and conflict-affected areas where WFP is responding, persons with disabilities are often the worst affected, and can find themselves excluded from recovery and development initiatives. To ensure that WFP leaves no-one behind, and reaches first those who are furthest behind on the path towards Zero Hunger, we are committed to collecting more and better data related to disability. As we can’t do it alone, we’re working with partners like Trinity College Dublin to make sure that this becomes a reality”

Dr Caroline Jagoe, Assistant Professor in Speech & Language Pathology, Trinity, added:

“With an estimated 80% of disabled people living in low- and middle-income countries, persons with disabilities in situations of humanitarian need face a risk of vulnerability to experiencing food insecurity and are likely to be among the ‘furthest behind’. Ensuring disability inclusion in the response to hunger is essential and Trinity is proud to partner with WFP in this research collaboration to address this global challenge.”

“Currently, where disability related data exists, it is disproportionately collected after assistance has been provided, which gives some indication of how many people with disabilities WFP happened to assist, but this information lacks contextualisation to assess whether this number is low or high, or what actions would need to be taken to adjust it. Through this partnership with the WFP there are examples of an important shift towards consideration of disability prior to assistance, building WFP’s understanding of the relationship between disability and food security at a household level. Working with WFP, the research team has seen disability included as a consideration at needs analysis stage in the Central African Republic, and used to inform targeting and prioritisation decisions in a large-scale urban retargeting excise undertaken in Zimbabwe earlier this year.”

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