An estimated 15 per cent of the world’s population, which translates to about one billion people, exist with some
degree of disability. And based on available statistics, approximately three per cent of the disabled population are severely incapacitated.
This disclosure was yesterday made by Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Resident Representative, Dr William Adu Krow, who shared his conviction that “it is a right for everyone to be able to have a normal life…”
Moreover, he underscored the importance of ensuring that disabled people are able to benefit from services that deliberately put in place measures to meet their rights as human beings. But, according to Dr Adu Krow, across the world, more often than not people with disabilities do not receive required services such as health care. This has been known to result in them having poorer health outcomes, added the PAHO Representative. “Persons with disabilities are more than twice as likely to find health care providers, skills and facilities
Inadequate; nearly three times more likely to be denied health care and four times more likely to be treated badly,” were the startling revelations uttered by Dr Adu Krow yesterday. He was at the time delivering remarks at the launch of the Ministry of Health’s Rehabilitation Services Strategic Plan 2014-2020.
He in his deliberations at the forum venued at the Pegasus Hotel, Kingston, Georgetown, recalled working in the labour ward as a young medical officer during which he was able to witness discrimination against the disabled. Dr Adu Krow in one account related how a prosthesis-wearing woman turned up in the ward for delivery but was made to feel quite out of place. “I think she felt uncomfortable coming into labour and removing the cover of the prosthesis, and she was also having difficulties…you’d be surprised sometimes what happens in the labour ward and the remarks that are made simply because she had a disability,” disclosed the PAHO Representative.
It was perhaps in the quest to avert such situations a historic event occurred whereby the 67th World Health Assembly adopted a resolution endorsing the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Disability Action Plan (2014-2021) – Better Health for all Persons with Disability. According to Dr Adu Krow the Action Plan is one that is designed to provide a major boost to WHO, Governments of the world and partners in their quest to enhance the quality of life of the one billion people around the world with disability.
The Action Plan which was called for by the 66th World Health Assembly, one year prior, was one based on the recommendations of the WHO together with the World Bank’s World Report on Disability and is in keeping with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
It was therefore developed in consultation with Member States, United Nations Organisations as well as national and international partners, including organisations of people with disabilities, according to Dr Adu Krow.
He explained that the Action Plan has a three-pronged approach which includes: to remove barriers and improve access to health services and programmes; to strengthen and extend rehabilitation assistive technology, assistant and support services and community based rehabilitation; and to strengthen collection of relevant and internationally comparable data on disability and support research on disability and related services.
In the Region of the Americas, the issue of disability was further discussed at the 53rd PAHO Directing Council meeting in Washington D. C. in the past month. And according to Dr Adu Krow, a resolution there recognised that the prevalence of disability is in fact growing because of the aging population and the global rise in chronic diseases, violence, accidents and the use and abuse of alcohol and elicit substances. These prevailing factors, according to him, are in fact “higher in low income countries and we are no exception even though we are a low-middle income country,” said Dr Adu Krow. He further went on to note that “only three per cent of the people of the Americas with some type of disability of varying degrees of severity have access to rehabilitative services and three per cent are highly dependent on another person to assist them with their activities of daily living.”
The situation is even more disturbing as according to Dr. Adu Krow only about 25 per cent of the disabled children have access to education and of these, only about five per cent usually finish primary school. Statistics reveal too that some three per cent of children are born with impairments that must be detected and treated with early intervention otherwise these impairments could lead to lifelong disabilities. “The most recent surveys in Latin American and the Caribbean made it possible for us to gauge the magnitude of the situation of people living with disabilities…,” said Dr Adu Krow recently.
According to him, based on statistics, an average of 12.4 per cent of Latin America and 5.4 per cent of the Caribbean populations live with at least one disability, a state of affairs which clearly suggests that “it is a problem for us to contend with.”
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