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  • Briefing
  • 31 March 2022

Global disability financing in the context of Covid-19

This briefing has been produced as part of DI's work with the Inclusive Futures consortium. It tracks aid to disability and provides an overview of total global funding, key recipients and sectoral funding.

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This publication has been produced as part of Development Initiatives’ (DI’s) work as a member of the Inclusive Futures consortium. In its role as evidence producer on disability inclusion, DI tracked aid to disability between 2019 and the third quarter of 2021 using disbursements sourced from the International Aid Transparency Initiative. The report provides an overview of the total funding, donors involved, the key recipients and sectoral funding.

Key findings

  1. Funding is concentrated to projects that are broadly relevant but not primarily designed to address disability. The majority of funding (94.2 per cent) targets activities that consider disability as a secondary objective (termed ‘Significant’) while the remaining 5.8 per cent targets activities that consider disability as a primary objective (‘Principal’).
  2. IATI data suggests that global disability-relevant aid increased between 2019 and 2020 followed by a decline between 2020 and the first three quarters of 2021.
  3. Annual analysis of the disbursements to projects with explicit disability objectives (Principal) shows that funding to disability increased between 2019 and 2020 by 82.9 per cent. Between 2020 and 2021, we noted a likely drop of funding to principal disability projects by 64 per cent based on data up to the third quarter (Q3) of 2021. The sharp drop was largely due to the fact that principal funding represents a small percentage of the total contribution, so it is subject to large fluctuations due to individual programme conclusion. Notably the drop could persist even with Q4 data as projections indicate minimal improvement in Q4 2021.
  4. Similarly, funding of projects with an indirect disability element (significant) increased between 2019 and 2020 but also declined slightly by Q3 2021. This is likely to be due to incomplete data for 2021 rather than an actual decline in funding. It is anticipated that funding for disability-relevant projects will increase in 2021 based on the average Q4 reporting for 2019 and 2020.
  5. A total of 22 donors support projects that directly target disability. These donors were a mix of bilateral organisations (15), multilateral organisations (4) and international financial institutions (IFIs) (3).
  6. The highest contributions for disability-inclusion projects came from bilateral institutions (52 per cent of total funding) followed by IFIs (31 per cent of total funding). The rest came from multilateral organisations (16 per cent).
  7. A total of 31 donors supported disability-inclusion indirectly over the period analysed. Under this broad development support with disability inclusions element, we noted a shift where IFIs supported more between 2020 and 2021 than bilateral institutions (the reverse was the case in 2019). This is consistent with our analyses where IFIs have become more prominent during Covid-19.
  8. The majority of funding is directed to the top ten recipient countries regardless of disability prevalence rates, total population size, severity of disability types, capacity of implementing local partners and conflict affected countries. Out of the total contribution to disability principal aid in the years analysed, the top 10 recipients had a percentage share of 70 per cent of the total aid contributed. This means the rest of the world received just 30 per cent of total contributions.
  9. The main disability aid recipients during the review period include Myanmar, Palestine, the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen in Asia; Bolivia, Colombia and Ecuador in South America; and Kenya and South Sudan in Africa. ‘Developing countries’ as a group feature among the top ten recipients in both significant and principal disability aid.[1]
  10. Funding is heavily concentrated to just a few sectors. Slightly more than 58 percent of total funded principal disability funding targeted six sectors out of a total of 13 sectors. These are Health, Governance and security, Education, Humanitarian, Other social services and Other sectors. The review finds a similar trend in significant disability aid in terms of concentration of funding in these six sectors.

Summary of findings

There is a low share of targeted funding of projects that explicitly address disability compared to those with broad development projects with a disability element as a cross cutting issue. This is evident from the wide difference between the significant component (94.2 per cent of the total contributed) and principal funding (5.8 per cent of the total contributed).

IFIs are emerging as the biggest funders of projects with disability as a cross-cutting issue. This finding is consistent with analyses of development finance during the Covid-19 pandemic by Development Initiatives, which showed that IFIs are becoming more prominent than bilateral donors.

Funding is heavily concentrated to just five sectors. Our review finds that more than four-fifths (85 per cent) of direct funding to disability projects was absorbed by the top five sectors, which are Health, Governance and security, Humanitarian, Education and ‘Other’ sectors.

The majority of funding is directed to the top ten recipient countries. Of the total disability exclusive projects, our review found that slightly more than two-thirds (70 per cent) are implemented in the top ten recipient countries. There is unclear connection between the recipient countries and the huge flow of specific disability aid when one considers total population size, disability prevalence rate, severity of disability types, and capacity of implementing local partners.

Read the full briefing paper: Global disability financing in the context of Covid-19.

Photo caption: Dakkhina Bahadur received assistance through UN Women which she used to continue making equipment to catch crabs after her business was impacted by Covid-19 and Cyclone Amphan.


  • 1
    Countries labelled as ‘developing’ on IATI are those with low incomes and underdeveloped industrial base with a substantially low standard of living and lower human development indices.
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