Do you know that 15% of the world’s population today – some 785 million people – have a significant or mental disability, including 5% of the children? This was revealed in a new report recently prepared by World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Bank. An article published in the Straits Times newspaper today.
These disabilities run the entire gamut of impairment, ranging from blindness and loss of limbs to chronic pain and mental retardation. The problems, especially among the elderly, are more prevalent in low-income countries than in rich ones. This report found that they are worsen by poverty, although in some places, disabilities do not inevitably cause poverty.
However, everywhere, if you observe closely enough, disabilities are often made worse by dozens of other factors, including social stigma, architectural barriers, lack of legal protection, cost of devices and assistance, and the lack of knowledge of others (especially in healthcare professionals) about how to interact effectively with disabled people, according to the report which was released at the United Nations (New York, USA) on Thursday 9 June 2011.
This report is the first by WHO analysing data about disability around the world today and its effects.
Dr Etienne Krug, the Belgian physician and epidemiologist at WHO who led this study, said, “The message is that we cannot continue to discriminate against or ignore the needs of such a large proportion of the world population.”
The 350-page document is the first major health report by the WHO to be available in Braille, meant for the blind. There is also a version for people with metal retardation, in which it consists largely of pictures and captions. The project took 4 years to complete and had involved 360 researchers worldwide, of whom many are disabled. Together, they sought and analysed censuses, epidemiological surveys and scentific articles but did not do any primary research on their own.
The problem of disability is likely to get substantially worse unless governments worldwide acknowledge it, they say. Two huge trends are contributing to its growth.
Almost 2/3 – 66.5% – of all years lived with disability in low and middle-income countries are consequences of “non-communicable diseases”. This category includes heart diseases, stroke, mental illness and cancer.
This number is 7 times the percentage of the disabilities attributed to infectious diseases – such as measles, whooping cough, pneumonia, meningitis, AIDS – that are still far more prevalent in poor countries than rich ones.
But as incomes rise in once-poor countries and thousands of people start working in offices, eating fast food such as hamburgers, smoking, having no unavoidable physical exertion (meaning, no exercise), and getting fat, the spectrum of disability seen in the United States is going global. It includes impairments caused by being overweight, diabetes, arthritis, inactivity, atherosclerosis and chronic lung diseases.
Everywhere, very often, disability is associated with growing older. In Australia, about 11% of its population 10 years ago was elderly, but that group accounted for 35%of the people with disability in the country.
In Sri Lanka, about 7% of its population was 65 years old or older but this group accounted for 23% of the disabled people in the country.
Disability is especially high in people who are aged 80 years old and above, the “age cohort” growing fastest in the world, about 4% a year.
This report provides countries a laundry list of suggestions about how to recognise the needs of the disabled, accomodate them and above all, include them in policy-making.
There is no single piece of advice stated as most important, although in interviews, the need to mainstream disabled children in schools appear to be at the top of this “wish-list”.
I totally agree with that. My opinion is that, young kids should be educated in such a way that they see disabled people as equal and normal like themselves. There should be no discrimination.
Love all fellow human beings, regardless disabled or able-bodied.
Don’t you agree?