Trinity partners with World Food Programme to address disability inclusion in food assistance programming

Posted on: 03 December 2020

Trinity College Dublin and the United Nations World Food Programme, recipient of the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, have agreed a multi-year partnership for research, with the initial collaboration addressing disability inclusion in food assistance programming.

The partnership was launched today to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities, with opening remarks from Dr Mary McAleese, Chancellor of the University, as well as Amir Abdullah, Deputy Director of WFP.

Speaking at the launch, Mary McAleese said:

“Today, with this wonderful project that creates this partnership between the very eminent organisation – the UN World Food Programme – and the doyen of Irish universities – Trinity College Dublin – it seems to me that the message is going out that people with disabilities are not forgotten on the other 364 days of the year.

“People are working assiduously to integrate the concerns and the needs of that vast disabled constituency into the thinking that will ultimately secure for them the kind of food security that others perhaps take for granted.”

The World Food Programme (WFP) 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 across 83 countries.

The research collaboration between Trinity and WFP seeks to develop 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.

In addition to broad experience in disability inclusive research and humanitarian action, this team is uniquely placed to ensure the inclusion of PwD who are traditionally excluded from even disability focused activities, including research.

Their clinical and research experience spans the diversity of disability, ensuring that due attention is paid to inclusion of those with visible disabilities as well as those with invisible disabilities (e.g. communication disabilities, psychosocial disabilities, swallowing disability).

Both researchers have a clinical background; Dr Jagoe has worked as a Speech and Language Therapist in the public health system in South Africa and in Ireland, while Ms O’Reilly is a Physiotherapist who has practised in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Young boy using a wheelchair with a lunch box on his lap. A crowd of smiling children are clustered around him. Image credit: WFP - Vincent Dewitt

Working closely with the Disability Inclusion Team in WFP, the project will explore how food assistance programming and accountability processes work for people with different disabilities in different humanitarian contexts.

The project will begin by exploring how best practice in disability data collection can be implemented in the complex contexts of humanitarian situations. In each of the three country contexts for the project, the team will engage with and consult local disabled people’s organisations (DPOs).

Ms Claire O’Reilly explains:

“Hunger is a global problem which is increasing, despite the ambitious goal of zero hunger articulated in the UN’s sustainable development goals. Food insecurity is also increasing at a particularly rapid rate in the context of the COVID19 pandemic; an recent report from WFP estimates that 149 million people faced acute food insecurity pre-COVID-19, but that may increase to up to 270 million before the end of the year.

Dr Jagoe adds:

“An estimated 80% of persons with disabilities live in low- and middle-income countries and those 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.”

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