World Forgotten ChildrenWith poverty rates rising in developing countries, raising a family can be financially taxing. As 10% of the worldwide population lives on less than $1.90 per day, there are millions of individuals who cannot provide basic necessities for their children. When a child has a physical or cognitive disability, parents face an additional barrier when addressing the children’s needs. In dire circumstances, some parents are left with no choice but to place their children in orphanages. The World Forgotten Children Foundation (WFCF) focuses efforts on helping impoverished orphans, especially those with disabilities.

Orphans Living in Poverty

Globally, there are 153 million children who are orphans and a large portion of these children are found in developing countries. Additionally, it is estimated that eight to 10 million children with disabilities are living in orphanages. Orphanages in impoverished areas often lack access to adequate resources, especially for children who need extra care for specific disabilities. The facilities fall short on appropriate education, economic stability and infrastructure.

The World Forgotten Children Foundation is a nonprofit organization that focuses on addressing the link between poverty and orphaned children, with an emphasis on helping disabled orphaned children in developing countries. The organization understands the value of also addressing the needs of the community rather than simply targeting the orphaned children.

Helping Children Affected by Cerebral Palsy

In 2017, the WFCF supported the International China Concern (ICC), an organization that takes care of more than 350 children and young adults with disabilities across China, many of who have been abandoned since birth. In China, approximately two million children have cerebral palsy. This group of disorders is the most common motor disability for children and prevents an individual from properly moving and maintaining balance and posture. Children with cerebral palsy struggle to straighten their bodies enough to fall asleep due to spinal postural deformities and those with severe cases are at risk of more serious health issues if they are unable to sleep in an adequate position. Between 23% to 46% of children living with cerebral palsy suffer from sleep issues due to pain, discomfort, seizures and skin ulcers. Also, sleep deprivation can cause development problems.

The ICC’s mission is to use postural management to protect the body shape and to minimize life-limiting deformity. The WFCF funded $10,277 to provide custom-fitted sleep aid systems for 14 children. The sleep aid systems improved the children’s physical and emotional health and well-being.

Handicapes en Avant Project

Handicapes en Avant is a French charity group based in West Africa focused on improving and facilitating the everyday lives of those with disabilities. The WFCF partnered with the Dokimoi Ergatai program of Messiah College to fund $7,800 worth of equipment. Through the partnership, the project provided physically disadvantaged children with hand-powered tricycles, enabling the children to have increased mobility. Additionally, visual assist items for computers were purchased in order to support children with visual disabilities in West Africa. Also, in Burkina Faso, funding was provided for the development of the first electric tricycle for the handicapped children of the Handicapes Avant facility. Additionally, blind orphans at the Handicapes en Avant school were provided with drawing boards to make relief drawings, Braille writing tablets and several other educational materials.

Improving the Lives of Orphans

The World Forgotten Children Foundation recognizes the many challenges of orphaned children, especially those with disabilities. The organization works to amplify the health and welfare of these disabled children. Plans for more support projects are in the pipeline. One project at a time, the Foundation is improving the lives of orphans in developing countries.

Sarah Frances
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare for Disabled PopulationsWorldwide, estimates have determined that more than 1 billion individuals live with some form of disability. In developing countries, access to healthcare is difficult enough with rural areas being far from main health centers and low socioeconomic status preventing optimal diagnosis and treatment. For disabled populations, low mobility leads to transportation difficulty, creating an additional barrier that compromises health and access to the nearest healthcare providers. Established in 1998, the Swinfen Charitable Trust (SCT) is a United Kingdom-based nonprofit organization that focuses on providing healthcare for disabled patients in developing countries through increased access to telehealth.

Disability as a Public Health Issue

Although 15% of the world lives with a form of disability, every person experiences varying limitations and healthcare needs. Article 25 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) states that those living with disabilities must receive the highest former of care without discrimination. Despite some countries upholding Article 25, many developing countries cannot provide the proper care for disabled individuals.

Beyond discrimination experienced in the health sector, individuals with disabilities face various barriers to healthcare. To begin, they typically encounter prohibitive costs for health services and transportation since a disability can create the need for a specially adapted vehicle in order to travel to the nearest healthcare professional. Estimates have stated that more than half of people experiencing a disability are unable to cover the costs they incur in healthcare, compared to approximately a third of people for those who are able-bodied. Also, physical barriers prevent disabled people from being able to access certain buildings and essential medical appointments. Inaccessible medical equipment, poor signage and inadequate bathroom facilities all comprise potential barriers. For example, medical professionals can often deny disabled women breast and cervical screening since the tables are not adjustable to one’s height and mammography equipment cannot accommodate women who are unable to stand.

The Swinfen Charitable Trust’s Mission

The Swinfen Charitable Trust (SCT) focuses on the disabled population of the developing world. SCT creates telemedicine links between healthcare centers in the developing world and medical professionals globally, who provide complementary diagnosis and treatment services. SCT represents the longest operating telemedicine nonprofit in existence. To date, there are 366 referring hospitals and more than 700 specialists providing their expertise to disabled people in developing countries free of charge. People can download the app called SCT Telemedicine on mobile phones and SCT has established telemedical links in 78 countries.

SCT raises money that goes toward improving the telemedicine experience and accessibility for disabled patients in developing countries. To begin, financial contributions provide round-the-clock system operators who have the task of analyzing and allocating new cases to specialists. Also, the money raised grants on-site support to partners for telemedical coverage implementation in local communities. This is especially crucial in remote areas of the developing world. Finally, any additional funds are allocated to expanding care to new countries or villages that are struggling to deliver adequate healthcare for disabled populations.

Improving the Lives of the Vulnerable

With a rising technologically dependent world, the Swinfen Charitable Trust is attempting to bridge the gap between poverty and healthcare access in developing countries, particularly for vulnerable populations. By establishing the means for disabled populations to access telemedicine, the disabled population can overcome healthcare barriers and improve their quality of life and life expectancy significantly.

– Sarah Frances
Photo: Flickr

Disability and Poverty in AfghanistanEvery day, people all throughout Afghanistan face not only the public health challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic but also a lack of accessibility to food, employment and a sense of stability. A study by Jean-Francois Trani and Washington University in St. Louis discussed how challenges like these may lead to both increased poverty and increased disability. They also identified how disability and poverty may overlap or compound the suffering of individuals. Here is some information about the link between disability and poverty in Afghanistan.

Challenges for Children in Afghanistan

In an environment with varying challenges, illness, injury, neglect and malnourishment can lead to lifelong health concerns and disability for children. Likewise, the chronic stress of struggling to sustain the life of a family in the midst of violence and trauma may also lead to debilitating psychiatric conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder. This is the crisis of disability and poverty in Afghanistan.

Mothers and grandmothers like Haji Rizva (only identified by the first name for her safety), struggle to feed their children. She thinks specifically of her 18-month-old granddaughter, Parvana, who had been constantly vomiting and too weak to move for days. “We didn’t have enough to feed her,” Haji Rizva told NPR while waiting in the ward for malnourished children at Indira Gandhi Children’s Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan. “Sometimes we only have tea for two, three days. We don’t even have bread.”

Around the same time, and in the same city, fathers like Kahn Wali Kamran told the Associated Press that they fear finding their young children dead when they return home from work each day. With a surge in large bombings, targeted killings and other forms of crime (including armed robbery and kidnapping for ransom), the future appears increasingly dangerous and uncertain.

The Link Between Disability and Poverty in Afghanistan

The Asia Foundation studies suggest that 17% of Afghan citizens suffer from some form of disability and 8.9% have severe impairments and are dependent on others. Additionally, after decades of uninterrupted conflict, the Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs (OCHA) noted that despite the lack of comprehensive study and measurement of mental health in such a volatile region, it conservatively estimated that more than half of the population suffers from some form of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Halfway across the world, Trani’s 2012 study examining the links between poverty and disability using data from Afghanistan and Zambia has become relevant once again. The study noted that it is logical that disabled individuals may be more likely to be poor, as they have a higher cost of living, and a diminished ability to perform certain tasks, especially those they may require for employment. People with PTSD may be unable to complete tasks, communicate effectively and stay calm, making it harder to acquire and maintain employment. However, poverty and disability as concepts are difficult to define, as they both take many dimensions into consideration.

Defining Poverty

Generally, the amount of income a household earns determines poverty status, and what necessary commodities that the family in that household would be able to acquire. However, because all households have different needs and expenses, this is an unreliable measurement. Instead, the capability to live in a state of well-being, and have a reasonable life expectancy, quality nourishment and shelter, basic education and access to health care should be factors when considering poverty. Trani noted that low income is a cause of poverty, not the definition of poverty. In this way, violence, too, is a cause of poverty, and so is disability.

This creates an unforgiving cycle that allows both poverty and disability to increase in prevalence. When a person is in poverty, like Kamran or Haji Rizva, they are unable to provide basic necessities for themselves and their families. Without proper shelter and protection, Kamran’s children are more likely to suffer severe injury, potentially leading to lifelong physical disability. Likewise, without proper nutrition, Parvana and other kids like her are less likely to grow and develop properly leading to weakened muscles, bones and organ systems. Poverty, in this case, causes injury. Injury then causes disability. This lowers employment opportunities, causing disabled individuals to fall further into poverty, putting them at greater risk of traumatic stress, further injury and other sufferings. This is the cycle of poverty and disability that has captured Afghanistan for decades.

The Humanitarian Response Plan for Afghanistan

Fortunately, OCHA has recently updated its ongoing Humanitarian Response Plan for Afghanistan to take greater action to help marginalized groups through the violence and the pandemic.

“Given the scale of vulnerability in Afghanistan, this effort will be guided by a range of both new and well-established technical working groups focused on gender, disability inclusion, gender-based violence (GBV), child protection, accountability to affected people (AAP) and protection from sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA)” wrote Parvathy Ramaswani in the plan’s updated introduction.

OCHA Measures

The efforts in regards to the pandemic will be largely consistent with others around the world, introducing sanitation protocols and vaccine distribution to the best of their ability, as reducing the spread of the pandemic will naturally provide relief to people caught in the poverty-disability cycle. As in developed countries, people with preexisting conditions are much more likely to develop complications from COVID-19 like pneumonia, infection and organ system failure. This could affect various disabilities that people develop from genetic conditions, malnutrition, previous infections and other injuries. Physical disability is quite prevalent in Afghanistan, so complications and deaths are also a greater concern than in some other areas.

From a psychiatric disability standpoint, the response plan is more targeted, directing resources and funding to local hospitals and clinics to seek out trauma patients who have not received adequate treatment prior to 2021. “With the volatile security situation creating higher trauma needs and associated disabilities, secondary trauma care continues to be a critical need,” the report noted. OCHA will continue to monitor the mental health of citizens closely through 2021, trying to care for those it missed in previous psychiatric treatment initiatives.

Help is on the way for people like Haji Rizva and Kamran, to prevent them and their children from developing new health concerns or complications from COVID-19. The OCHA response plan aims to reach 86% or more of the existing disabled population in Afghanistan.

– Anika Ledina
Photo: Flickr

Disability and Poverty in Lebanon
According to a U.K. study, 10-15% of Lebanese residents have a disability. In Lebanon, like many places around the world, a direct link between disability and poverty exists. Disabled individuals in Lebanon are less likely to complete elementary school and more likely to face unemployment and poverty than the abled population. As a result, disability is one of the leading causes of institutionalization in Lebanon. Here is some information about disability and poverty in Lebanon.

In the Context of COVID-19

The Lebanese government has recently come under fire for providing disabled individuals with little, conflicting or no information regarding the virus. Aya Majzoub, a Lebanon researcher at Human Rights Watch, said that “This exclusion is robbing people with disabilities of potentially life-saving information and services that they need to weather this crisis.” Restricting access to this information limits the ability of those with disabilities to social distance and access resources, as they must rely on word-of-mouth to make important safety decisions. This puts Lebanon’s disabled population at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, simply due to the fact that they do not have the information necessary to protect themselves.

However, even if the Lebanese government decided to give the disabled population accurate information, there is no guarantee that they would have the technology necessary to receive it. Although international law dictates that governments must use technologies such as interactive voice response and TTY/TDD to provide information in accessible formats, not everyone may be able to afford the technology necessary to receive those messages.

UNICEF and other NGOs have produced accessible materials for people with disabilities to gain accurate information regarding COVID-19.

Medical Care

People with disabilities in Lebanon cannot always access medical care. In an American University of Beirut study of disabled Lebanese citizens and refugees living in Lebanon, 78.5% said that financial ability was a barrier to health care.

Arceniel, a Lebanese nonprofit founded in response to the high number of disabilities caused by the Lebanese Civil Wars, provides pay-what-you-can health care. Specializing in disability care, the organization provides mobility equipment, specialized therapies, clinician visits and other resources.

Education

By law, all government buildings, including public schools must be accessible. However, a study found that only five of all Lebanese public schools were accessible. As a result, 85% of individuals with disabilities did not complete the Lebanese equivalent of elementary school.

During this time of working and studying from home, children with cognitive disabilities who rely on in-person learning to grasp material have experienced a significant impact. Fista, a Lebanese organization that works with children and adults with cognitive disabilities, moved its entire program online. Children with cognitive disabilities can now access instructors and therapists to continue their education toward bright futures.

Workplace Inequity

Law 220, a hopeful measure from the year 2000, set a quota for the percentage of disabled employees in a company. However, the lack of physical accessibility to most Lebanese buildings makes meeting that quota improbable, if not impossible. Moreover, the government rarely enforces Law 220’s quota at all, leaving prospective disabled employees with few employment options. As a result, 74% of the disabled population does not have employment.

According to the Lebanese Physical Handicapped Union (LPHU)’s estimate, of disabled individuals who are capable of working, only 26% have employment. The union seeks to change that. LPHU offers on-the-job training, job placement, advocacy, business development services and counseling to those with physical disabilities.

Disability access is an issue in all countries around the world. Although the Lebanese government has taken legislative actions to improve the lives of the disabled population, enforcement of these laws for schools, workplaces and government outreach programs is lacking. The Lebanese government can and must do better to create accessible environments for its disabled population and reduce the link between disability and poverty in Lebanon.

– Monica McCown
Photo: Flickr

Cure BionicsCure Bionics, a startup company based in Tunisia, is finalizing its design for a prosthetic hand using 3D-printed components. Priced at $2,000, the model will cost significantly less than the bionic limbs typically imported from Europe. Cure Bionics could transform the lives of many Tunisians in need of prosthetic limbs to improve their quality of life.

Disabilities in Tunisia

Although not much data is available for limb differences in Africa, the 2002-2004 World Health Survey declared that 16.3 of Tunisia’s population possessed some sort of disability.

Although the country has passed groundbreaking legislation prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities, prejudice still hinders Tunisians with disabilities from fully participating in social settings. Moreover, people with disabilities often find voting difficult due to a lack of appropriate accommodations and many struggle to find good employment. Past research indicated that nearly 60% of Tunisians with disabilities did not earn any individual income, and the 40% who did work, earned 40% less than people without disabilities.

Social, political and economic exclusion means, broadly speaking, that Tunisians with disabilities are more acutely impacted by multidimensional poverty than Tunisians without disabilities. In turn, this has led to disparities in education, health and employment. The social exclusion of people with disabilities has a considerable cost in terms of quality of life with a life expectancy reduction of approximately 18 years.

Cure Bionics

Cure Bionics hopes to improve the lives of disabled people in Tunisia by making high-tech bionic limbs more accessible and affordable for the people who need them.

When the company’s founder, Mohamed Dhaouafi, was studying engineering at university, he began to research prosthetics after learning that one of his peers had a relative who was born without upper limbs and could not afford prosthetics. Dhaouafi quickly discovered that this is not uncommon: Of the approximately 30 million people in developing countries who have amputated limbs, only 1.5 million can obtain prosthetics.

After graduating from university, Dhaouafi continued to work on the prosthetic device he had begun designing in school. Today, Cure Bionics’ 3D-printed bionic hands have rotating wrists, a mechanical thumb and fingers that bend at the joints in response to the electronic impulses. The bionic hand can be adjusted to accommodate a child’s physical growth. It can also be solar-powered for use in regions without a reliable electricity supply. Since young people with limb differences require multiple prostheses as they age, Cure Bionics’ cost-effective approach could help to ensure that more children benefit from prosthetic limbs earlier in life.

Moreover, Dhaouafi hopes to offer a virtual-reality headset for physical therapy sessions. Geared especially toward children, the headset will allow recipients of bionic limbs to become familiar with their prosthetics and to practice moving and flexing their fingers in the fun and exciting context of a video game.

Looking to the Future

While Cure Bionics continues to finalize and test its bionic hand before making it available for purchase in Tunisia, Dhaouafi has already set himself another goal. He wants to offer high-tech, low-cost prosthetic limbs to people with limb differences throughout Africa, the Middle East and beyond.

Selected by the Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa program in 2019, Dhaouafi is helping to increase access to bionic prosthetics for people who could not otherwise have afforded the expense. In this way, he is also helping Tunisians with limb disabilities to overcome the formidable challenges of exclusion and escape multidimensional poverty,  improving their quality of life overall.

Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

Disability and Poverty in Egypt
When people think of Egypt, they may conjure up images of the grand ancient sphinxes guarding towering pyramids or pharaohs dripping with golden threads. While this is certainly a part of the Egyptian story, it does not paint a comprehensive picture. Unfortunately, there are also strikingly high rates of disability and poverty in Egypt. While the 2006 Egyptian census determined that around 1.4 million Egyptians have disabilities, the U.N. estimates that approximately 12 million people— or almost 15% of the population– are disabled.

Statistics on Disability and Poverty in Egypt

Here are some statistics regarding disability and poverty in Egypt:

  • Of the poorest 20% of Egyptians, around 18% have disabilities, compared to only 14.8% to 15.7% of people within the other quintiles.
  • About 22.9% of disabled Egyptians considered themselves food insecure, versus 13.8% of non-disabled Egyptians.
  • As of 2018, the employment rate for all disabled Egyptians was only 44%. Not only is this quite low, but it is also a drop from an employment rate of 47% in 2012.
  • For Egyptian women, who are less likely to join the workforce in general, the disabled employment rate is a staggering 17%.
  • Illiteracy rates for children with disabilities are quite high — 61% of disabled boys and 70% of disabled girls in Egypt do not know how to read.

The Vicious Cycle of Disability and Poverty

As with many developing countries, disability and poverty in Egypt create a vicious cycle. Consequences of poverty, such as unsanitary living conditions, poor access to clean water, malnutrition and diseases regularly precipitate disabilities, especially for children. These disabilities include but are not limited to blindness, developmental and cognitive disabilities, stunting and physical deformities. Additionally, early pregnancies and high fertility rates (which correlate with high poverty rates) often result in disability. This is true for the mothers who become weak and illness-prone from so many pregnancies, and for the children born to exceptionally young and old mothers.

To make matters worse, stigma and prejudice around disabilities tend to perpetuate poverty among the disabled population, because they make it harder to find good work, if at all. Specifically, 82% of women and about 35% of men with “narrow disabilities” are not in the workforce. Many of the women who are in the workforce work in the informal sector, meaning they may do their work from home and are not on official payrolls. This puts them at a further disadvantage because they do not receive health insurance and rarely have legal labor contracts. Even employers who hire people with disabilities to official roles tend to disincentivize them from coming to work or pay unfair wages.

Policy Not-in-Action

Technically, the Egyptian government has taken steps to ensure the rights of disabled citizens. For example, article 81 of the constitution states that disabled persons must have the same rights and opportunities as all other citizens. It also promises that the State will work to provide jobs and accessibility to accommodate special needs. Egypt also ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) and the U.N. 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. Both agreements require countries to regularly report what their government has done to help those with disabilities.

Despite this, Egypt has scarcely done anything to implement laws or policy, nor has it reported to the U.N. committees. Prejudices, such as the belief that disabilities are punishments from God or malevolent spirits called jinn, have meant officials rarely follow through with the policies’ promises.

Help is on the Way

Lack of governmental action does not mean that there is no hope for disabled Egyptians. Many organizations are giving individuals with disabilities the tools to succeed in the workplace and minimizing the stigma around disability in general. For example, the Egyptian nonprofit Helm has equipped more than 1,500 disabled people with the skills they need for a variety of jobs. They also train employers to create accessible and equitable workplaces and have already trained more than 5,000 corporate employees. The nonprofit has also won multiple awards and gained support from American institutions, such as MIT and Harvard for the work they have done. From curb ramps to corporate guidance, NGOs like Helm are creating inclusive work environments so that people with disabilities can avoid or transcend poverty.

Corporations are also joining in the fight to empower disabled workers and erase the stigma around disability. One such corporation, the mobile phone company Orange, is partnering with the Smile Foundation, a nonprofit that has already provided skills training to hundreds of neurodivergent Egyptians. The Smile Foundation also recognizes the connection between socio-economic status and disability, so it focuses its efforts on people coming from poverty. These efforts mean many disabled Egyptians can become equal members of the workforce and work their way out of poverty. Additionally, the Smile Foundation has organized multiple campaigns that convince the public that people with disabilities are capable employees and hard workers who deserve respect and equal rights.

The Positive Perfect-Storm

Disability and poverty create a negative feedback loop that can seem inescapable. However, a nonprofit advocacy and government policy can also work together to create a positive self-reinforcing cycle. First, many groups are already working to minimize the stigma around disability in Egypt. Less stigma will make authorities more likely to intervene when there are breaches of disabled people’s rights. Moreover this, in turn, will give current government policies more power to improve the lives of people with disabilities. These improvements — specifically equal treatment in the workforce and quality education — provide clear paths away from the spiral of disability and poverty in Egypt. As a result, while the present may seem bleak, change is emerging right over the horizon.

– Elyssa Nielsen
Photo: Flickr

Disability and Poverty in Thailand
Like many other countries, Thailand has been working for the past several years to provide rights, facilities and access to people with disabilities and people living in poverty. In the last three decades, the poverty level in Thailand has reduced from 65% to 10%. Part of this reduction has occured through programs such as The Government Welfare Registration Programme, established in 2016. This program gives registered citizens over the age of 18 earning less than 100,000 Bhat (roughly over $3,000) a monthly fund between Bt1,200 -Bt 1800 (the price correlates with where the citizen lives) to access public transportation and buy basic needs. Throughout the ’90s and the 2000s, the government has instated more rights and organizations for those with disabilities to help guarantee them work, welfare and accessibility in government and public buildings. However, a correlation between disability and poverty in Thailand still exists.

However, poverty is starting to rise in Thailand due to the country’s economic growth slowing down and the environmental challenges that are affecting citizen’s livelihood and homes. And there are still some cultural misconceptions in Thailand about disabilities that can create barriers to those with disabilities. So, even though things are improving, it is still incredibly important to advocate for those living with disability and poverty in Thailand.

Current Statistics on Disability and Poverty in Thailand

Around 3% of Thailand’s population (a little over 2 million people) have a disability card. The top three conditions were mobility disabilities (about 50%), hearing impairments (around 18%) and visual impairments (approximately 10%). Other disabilities included physical impairments, psychological disorders, autism and learning disabilities. Nearly 52% of the disabled population of Thailand are over 60, around 42% of them are from the ages 15-60 and almost 2% are 14 years or younger.

Excluding those under school age, about 4% of Thailand’s disabled population has never had any formal education. For those who have, only around 5% of them have any kind of schooling outside of primary education. For work, only around 24% of those above 15 years old reported having employment, while about 18% reported being able to work but unemployed.

While there were no specific statistics about what percentage of people living with a disability and are in poverty in Thailand, the major reasons people found themselves under the poverty line were ill-health, job-loss or a natural disaster.

Rights and Laws for Those with Disabilities

The Thai government has set up laws and acts to make sure people living with disabilities get the rights they deserve. One of these legislations is The Persons with Disabilities Empowerment Act, which the government set up in 2007. It states that anyone who encounters limitations through an impairment has the right to receive legal or personal assistance, sign language interpreters, medical services, house modifications for better accessibility and education free of charge. They can also receive tax exemptions, cheaper public transportation feeds, loans without interest for self-employment and a monthly allowance of 800 baht.

Other Organizations and Resources

Different associations, organizations and charities have emerged within Thailand or internationally to support people with various disabilities and their work frequently involves fighting for specific laws. For example, the National Association of the Deaf of Thailand helped the government recognize Thai Sign Language as an official language in 1999.

Other organizations provide the necessary resources for those who do not have easy access to it. Handicap International has been providing free physical therapy to refugees and neighboring host villages along the border of Myanmar since 1982.

These organizations also aim to provide fun, social events that help give people with disabilities a sense of community. An example of this is The Association of the Blind which, among other things, has held an annual reading and writing in Braille contest since 2013.

Necessary Improvements

Despite government and organization efforts, work is still necessary to meet all the needs of the disabled community, especially for those living with disability and poverty in Thailand. For example, the government’s monthly fund is not enough to live on and get access to different health care services, even with the increase from 800 baht to 1,800 baht per month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the pandemic has made it more impossible for those with disabilities to live off this fund because many of them have lost their jobs, access to many health care services and any way to earn an extra income.

When it comes to other services such as employment and education, some in Thailand have a lack of cultural awareness regarding disabilities and how it can lead to discrimination. For example, studies have shown that many parents feel many mainstream teachers do not have enough specialized training to deal with children with different disabilities. Also, because many people have a more “fixed” version of what it means to have a disability, those who have a registered disability but are “able-looking” on the outside have a harder time obtaining resources or finding employment.

To improve attitudes towards disabilities, The Persons with Disabilities Empowerment Act states that it is the responsibility of The National Commission on Promotion and Development of Life Quality of Disabled Persons (which was the minister of this act) to inform individual employers and organizations of the nature of disabilities and the rights of the disabled. Regarding education, Thailand established The Education for Persons with Disabilities Act in 2008. It emphasized that education is free for those with disabilities and that they had the right to pick what institutions they choose to attend and request any accommodations to aid them on their academic journeys.

Conclusion

It is important to look back and recognize that Thailand is making progress to help the disabled community and acknowledge the people and organizations that continue to fight for the Thai people at large. However, it is also important to recognize there are still plenty of issues regarding disability and poverty in Thailand that require attention and that spreading awareness about disability and poverty is vital.

– Mikayla Burton
Photo: Flickr

Addis Guzo, Supporting People with Disabilities in EthiopiaAs of 10 years ago, nearly 15 million people in Ethiopia were living with disabilities. The vast majority of these individuals live in poverty due to a lack of proper infrastructure, education and awareness of how to treat disabilities. Lower and middle-income countries, a category that includes countries like Ethiopia, tend to have difficulties in supporting people with disabilities. This is because there are often very few centers where people with disabilities can get the care that they need, and even those centers can be hard to access by the majority of the population.

Aiding People with Disabilities in Ethiopia

Although the country has dedicated itself to helping people with disabilities through agreements like the 2006 African Decades of Disabled Persons, structural barriers have made it rather difficult to truly support people.

However, some organizations are starting to addressing the lack of resources for people with disabilities in Ethiopia. One such program is Addis Guzo. Founded in 2012, this Switzerland-based NGO supports people with disabilities in Ethiopia through integration efforts, as well as by educating the public. In order to benefit the local communities, the NGO is also staffed entirely with people from Ethiopia.

Addis Guzo’s Programs

There are two important programs that Addis Guzo runs to help people with disabilities in Ethiopia. The first is the Wheelchair Workshop. Every year, Addis Guzo collects wheelchairs in Switzerland and sets up a program so that people who need a wheelchair in Ethiopia can get a new wheelchair or repair their existing model. The program has a large impact, collecting around 600 wheelchairs annually.

Wheelchairs can be important tools to drastically improve the lives of their users by enabling mobility. Without wheelchairs, it can be difficult for people with disabilities to live the lives they want, or to do more traditional work. Having a wheelchair can improve this situation by helping people integrate themselves by enabling them to travel long distances for work or be active for longer periods of time. In fact, a study of wheelchair users in Ethiopia estimated that using a wheelchair increased the probability of employment by 15%, as well as increased wages and average hours of work

The second program is Rehabilitation, Economic Empowerment and Sports. The goal of this program is to give people living with disabilities in Ethiopia hope for the future by supporting them in a wide variety of ways. This includes business partnerships, sports leagues and counseling.

Supporting People with Disabilities in Ethiopia

Such programs offered by Addis Guzo are essential to help build skills among people with disabilities in Ethiopia and foster inclusion. Sports can give people leadership and teamwork skills they may not have otherwise developed. Additionally, sports can help build community among players, helping people to network and build important connections that they can use later in life. Programs like the one put forth by Addis Guzo can foster these connections and help people with disabilities integrate themselves into society, something Ethiopia has historically struggled with.

– Thomas Gill
Photo: Flickr

Examining Disability and Poverty in FranceDisability is affecting 12 million people in France. Limited mobility and sensation not only prevents disabled people from normal daily and professional life but they also lead to a higher risk of poverty. According to Eurostat, disability and poverty in France go hand in hand. In 2018, 21% of the French population over 16 years old with a disability were at risk of poverty or social exclusion, compared with less than 15% of those with no limitation. This considerable gap exists across the European Union, although the proportion of each member state varies significantly. On average, the possibility for a disabled EU citizen to suffer from poverty is about 10% greater than that of their counterparts.

Governmental Policies

In 2018, the French government rolled out a comprehensive and interministerial policy to increase resources available to the disabled population and to improve their living conditions. This policy embraced housing, health, education, work, transport as well as access to culture, sport and recreational activities. In the following five years, the government determined to provide disabled people with a preferential allocation of social housing for rent, develop health prevention among disabled people and enhance the status of healthcare workers and reduce the gap between the unemployment rate among citizens with disabilities and non-disabled people.

Allowance for Disabled Adults (AAH)

Regarding the correlation between disability and poverty in France, the French government has already achieved its 2019 goal of increasing the Allowance for disabled adults (Allocation aux adultes handicapés/ AAH) to €900 per month. AAH is a minimum-income awarded to people over 20 years old with severe disabilities rated by the Committee for the Rights and Self-dependency of Disabled Persons (CDAPH).

A French resident with a disability severity rating of at least 80% can benefit from AAH for a period of one to 10 years, depending on each particular case. For those rated between 50% and 79% with a substantial reduction of access to employment, they are eligible for AAH for one to five years. As of 2020, the maximum AAH is €902.70 per month, with annual income ceilings of around €11,000 for a person living alone and around €20,000 for a couple.

Facilities and Mobilities

French law requires that all new buildings and existing public buildings must be adapted and accessible to people with disabilities. The transformations have to take some time, yet large cities such as Paris and Lyon and some popular touristic regions have become much more accessible in recent years. For example, all buses in Paris are now equipped with platforms facilitating passengers with limited ability to get on and off more easily. Additionally, any disabled resident of France can request a carte mobilité inclusion (CMI) that grants them priority access to seating in public transport and free parking.

Although the government and social organizations are taking various actions to improve the well-being of people with disabilities and poverty in France, the current situation is hardly satisfying. Joncour, a 19-year-old university student and non-verbal autistic, complains that the departmental home for people with disabilities (MDPH) can only grant him three hours a day of subsidized personal assistance. The remaining hours cost the family about €1,000 per month so that he can go to class and have a normal life like his peers. This expense has enormously impacted the daily life of the family and sadly drove them to a precarious position. There is still a long way to go to improve the living standards of those with disabilities and poverty in France. Hopefully, after the five-year term of the new policies, the living conditions of disabled people will significantly improve in France.

Jingyan Zhang
Photo: Flickr

AlNourWomen’s agency and equal rights can help to significantly reduce poverty. When evaluating the development of a country, the role of women should not be overlooked. When women are empowered through literacy and education, they become more productive members of society that contribute to global poverty reduction. AlNour is a Moroccan business that allows women in Morocco to be part of the labor force, especially disabled women.

Cultural Norms Limit Women

Oftentimes women do not have the same opportunities as their male counterparts to receive education, engage in the labor force or own property. This is partly because of cultural norms that limit women to domestic responsibilities. By reducing unpaid domestic work, women become empowered and capable of obtaining income security and sustainable livelihoods, which significantly diminishes poverty levels.

Gender Inequality in Morocco

Gender inequality and the lack of women in the labor force in Morocco are related and ongoing issues. The nation, which is located in northwestern Africa, ranked 137 out of 149 countries according to the 2018 World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report and ranked 141 out of 149 countries for women’s economic participation and opportunity. Although there were reforms in 2011 to increase the participation of women in the labor force in Morocco, and specifically within the government, women largely remain underrepresented in elected positions.

The economy would benefit from an increase in women’s participation. The IMF examined the relationship between gender inequality and growth and found that policies that better integrate women into the economy would greatly improve growth. As of 2019, if as many women worked as men worked, “income per capita could be almost 50% higher than it is now.”

The participation of women in the labor force in Morocco increases economic development and therefore reduces global poverty. But, how can women become more active citizens in society? The answer can be found by examining an organization called AlNour, which serves as an important example of how to best empower women.

AlNour: A Women’s Empowerment Organization

AlNour is a textile and embroidery business that provides an outlet for women to participate in the labor force in Morocco, thereby contributing to the economic development of the country as a whole. AlNour, which means “the light” in Arabic, began in 2013 after Patricia Kahane, originally from Austria, began the enterprise as a means of offering disabled Moroccan women sources of income through textile production and embroidery. The business employs disabled female workers who face a double disadvantage in Morocco due to their disabilities and gender.

The organization not only provides women with work but also offers training programs for languages, professional and artisan skills. The company has a van that allows women to easily and safely travel to and from work and also has a child care center for working mothers. Furthermore, the company offers free breakfast and lunch daily. The business has partnered with local shops to distribute its products and it also has a website, which features a range of items from home accessories to clothing.

AlNour serves as a rich example of how an organization can alter the lives of many and even impact an entire country. By developing sustainable solutions that not only invest in education but also emotional and financial support, women can break free from traditional roles and gender stereotypes, while simultaneously promoting financial inclusivity and bettering the nation entirely.

Gender Equality Progress in Morocco

There is light and hope for women in Morocco, as significant progress has been made. For example, the revision of the family code to expand the rights of women in marriage, guardianship, child custody and access to divorce is a monumental stride. The creation of a 14-week paid maternity leave clause was also introduced. Additionally, “the first and most advanced gender budgeting initiative in the Middle East and Central Asia region was launched in Morocco in 2002.”

While policies and laws that support gender equality such as the gender budget initiative are undoubtedly important, creating sustainable organizations like AlNour is an equally essential step in order to create a system that allows women to personally and professionally prosper from the ground level upward, consequently helping the economic development of Morocco as a whole.

– Marielle Marlys
Photo: Flickr