Rights for persons with disabilities remain elusive in Lebanon
Middle East Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
The World Health Organization estimates that 10-15% of Lebanese people live with at least one disability. However, in 2018 the United Kingdom Department for International Development documented that 61% of Lebanese households include one or more persons with disabilities suggesting that the prevalence is in fact far greater than estimated. Reports indicate that structural inequalities affecting persons with disabilities in Lebanon continue to undermine the enjoyment of human rights related to education, employment, healthcare, and housing.
Due to persistent State failure to protect and fulfill the rights of persons with disabilities, the burden of care is relegated to family members. Households that include a member with a disability on average have lower household income due to the unremunerated time spent supporting persons with disabilities. They also have higher costs associated with accessing basic services. As a consequence, households that include a member with a disability are two times more likely to constitute the poorest deciles of society. Persons with disabilities in Lebanon are, thus, marginalized and vulnerable.
In 2000, Lebanon adopted Law 220/2000 on the Rights of Disabled Persons. However, it codified a narrow definition of disability, effectively excluding persons with mental disabilities and some sensual and intellectual disabilities from access to services and enjoyment of rights. Even so, the law has not been implemented or enforced by the State. Although Lebanon has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, it has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which upholds the right of children with disabilities to education and healthcare.
International efforts to collaborate may yield progress in protecting and fulfilling basic rights. The increasing vulnerability of persons with disabilities in the setting of economic depression in Lebanon has prompted the European Union to partner with UNICEF, ILO, and the Lebanon Ministry of Social Affairs to provide monthly income support. Income support is also available for non-Lebanese refugees with disabilities. The national disability allowance is intended to be a component of a larger national assistance program to provide social protection benefits to vulnerable persons, including those with disabilities.
Sources and further reading
Marouche, Wissam, Kate McAuliff, and Maha Shuayb. “Lebanon Literature Review.” Disability Under Siege, March 2021.https://disabilityundersiege.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Disability-
Combaz, Emilie. “Situation of Persons with Disabilities in Lebanon.” K4D, July 15, 2018. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/5b584da340f0b633af812655/Disability_in_Lebanon.pdf.
“Towards a Rights-Based and Comprehensive Social Protection System for Lebanon: Supporting the Inclusion and Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities.” ILO, December 23, 2020. https://www.ilo.org/beirut/publications/WCMS_765094/lang--en/index.htm.
Convention on the Rights of the Child, Treaty Series, vol. 1577 § (1989).
UNICEF. “UNICEF and ILO in Partnership with the European Union Launch a New National Disability Allowance to Provide Cash Support to People with Disabilities Living in Lebanon.,” December 2, 2021.https://www.unicef.org/lebanon/press-releases/unicef-and-ilo-partnership-european-