Disability and human mobility

Last updated on 14 January 2022

Persons with disabilities are often among the most vulnerable and disproportionately affected groups in migration and forced displacement situations. Within the population of persons on the move with disabilities, subgroups like older migrants and women and girl migrants with disabilities are particularly vulnerable. It is known that the migration and forced displacement processes can create disabilities or worsen existing ones. Yet, knowledge on migration or forced displacement and disability is limited because data on disability are often not collected. When they are, methods for collecting data are not standardized which makes comparing data across countries difficult. How disability is defined also poses a challenge when trying to compare existing data. The criteria for defining disability for data collection purposes also differs across countries and organisations.

No official international statistics exist on the global prevalence of disability within the persons on the move population; at best, there are estimates. In 2020, an estimated 12 million people in the forced displacement population were persons with disabilities, but the prevalence is likely higher (GMDAC analysis based on UNCHR 2020 and WHO 2011)1.

In general, existing data sources on persons on the move with disabilities provide information at the national or local levels, or on particular groups or subgroups. Data gaps like the lack of available or timely data, lack of harmonized datasets and collection methods, along with the challenges in defining disability to compare cross-country datasets, need to be addressed to help provide a clearer global picture of human mobility and disability for policymaking and program implementation, as well as track related targets in the Sustainable Development Goals.