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The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates around 1 billion people live with some form of disability worldwide, making up around 15% of the population. 80% of disabled people live in developing countries, according to the UN. An estimated 19% of women over 18 have a disability, compared 12% of men—this differential is associated with greater male access to education and employment.

Globally, disabled people  are more likely to face significant disadvantage compared to those who are not disabled, and are more likely to experience poorer socio-economic situations due to greater challenges in accessing education, services and employment, and higher rates of poverty. However, many aid projects are not specifically aimed at disability inclusion, leading to fears disabled people are often left behind in aid spending.  

In 2018, the UK’s Department for International Development, now merged into the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office  (FCDO), launched a disability inclusion strategy, which originally ran until 2023. Its aims included improving education results for disabled children and doubling the proportion of UK aid programmes that are disability-inclusive by 2023.

In 2022, FCDO launched a new disability strategy, running from 2022 to 2030. It identifies several areas of intervention, including education, health, social protection, climate change, and economic empowerment.  The strategy will be monitored using several metrics, including reducing the proportion of people with disabilities living in poverty in certain countries and increasing the number of girls with disabilities in education.

This briefing describes specific international development needs for disabled people, with a focus on poverty and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. It also covers the UK’s aid strategy, spending on improving disability inclusion worldwide, and the effectiveness of UK aid efforts.

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