Tikkun Olam Makers
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15% of people worldwide, roughly 1 billion, live with a disability. An estimated 80% of those living with a disability reside in developing countries where lack of accessibility serves as a barrier for getting through everyday life. Moreover, these physical obstacles can lead to both social and cultural hardships. Luckily, Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) is attempting to provide aid to disabled and low-income people.

Multidimensional Disabilities

While having a disability in itself can pose a challenge to individuals, there are other adversities as well. In developing countries, 90% of children with disabilities are not in school. In addition, women with disabilities often experience much higher rates of violence and abuse than women without. A 2004 study focused on girls and women with disabilities in India and showed that almost all had experienced physical abuse in their homes. Furthermore, 25% had experienced rape and 6% had undergone sterilization against their will. The fact that a mere 45 countries, primarily developed ones, have anti-discrimination and disability-specific laws has only made this reality worse. However, growing global movements have set out to change this status quo directed at the needs of minority communities.

Bringing New Technology to Age-Old Challenges

Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) is a global movement based out of Israel dedicated to seeking affordable solutions for individuals living with disabilities in lower-income communities. TOM recognizes the power of technology and views it as a tool to help all people achieve access to affordable solutions for their disabilities. Tikkun Olam Makers has instituted 605 projects and delivered more than 213,000 products since its start in 2014. Tikkun Olam Makers addresses the needs of minority communities through a multi-step process:

  1. Establish or Join a Community: The first stage is joining a community or establishing one if none exist in one’s surrounding area.
  2. Challenge: Once a community has undergone creation, individuals work to identify what TOM terms ‘Neglected Challenges’–specific needs of minority communities for which affordable market solutions do not yet exist. In tandem with identifying these challenges, communities pair up with ‘Need-Knowers’–people with specific understandings of these challenges.
  3. Prototyping: The next step is creating a prototype solution to the posed challenge. The ‘Makers’ of these issues can include anyone involved in collaborating on the solution design.
  4. Productizing: Once a prototype receives approval, groups proceed to productizing–the process of turning the digital prototype into a physical product. This step also includes the digital documentation and product transfer to the Tikkun Olam Makers website.
  5. Disseminating: Products undergo distribution to final end-users once completed. This distribution takes place via local ‘maker spaces’ that exist in a variety of academic institutions, community centers, large companies and more.

Tikkun Olam Makers Captures Global Attention

TOM’s impact has reached thousands of people in need. In November 2021, the organization took part in its first Global Innovation Challenge in Dubai. The organization presented its disability solutions alongside 50 others from over 15 countries. Three teams from Tikkun Olam Makers received grand prizes for their innovations. One of these included the Talker Mount, a mechanism for individuals with cerebral palsy to communicate independently via a tablet. In addition, one other group from TOM also received an honorable mention.

As another year approaches, Tikkun Olam Makers intends to continue creating solutions for those with disabilities. Through support from people across the globe and strong investments in a better future, Tikkun Olam Makers is paving the way for such inventions to become normalized necessities.

Chloé D’Hers
Photo: Flickr

Kimuli Fashionability
Kampala, Uganda generates 350,000 tons of waste every year, much of which goes uncollected. Sorting through glass, plastic and other trash is a dangerous job, but that does not stop Juliet Namujju from collecting waste for her sustainable clothing brand, Kimuli Fashionability, and teaching people with disabilities how to turn trash into treasure.

From Tragedy to Hope

Juliet Namujju’s father had his legs amputated after a terrible accident. Because of his disability, he was not able to find employment, lost hope and eventually died. At only 6 years old, Namujju became an orphan when her mother died shortly after. Her grandmother, a tailor with little income, took her in. Since her grandmother could not afford toys, she inspired Juliet to make and sew dolls using leftover fabric and waste. After high school, Namujju attended a fashion course and joined Social Innovation Academy, a nonprofit organization that helps marginalized youth realize their full potential.

At 20 years old, she founded her sustainable clothing brand with the hope of employing and empowering the people of her village. Kimuli Fashionability was born out of ingenuity in an environment of poverty. Namujju’s mission is to simultaneously promote inclusivity by hiring people with disabilities while also limiting the out-of-control waste in Uganda.

The Brand

Kimuli is the Luganda word for “flower.” Namujju named her sustainable clothing brand “Kimuli Fashionability” because she takes the trash and turns it into something elegant, like a flower. Not only are her fashions flowering treasures, but her budding students make her business flourish. The sustainable clothing brand has trained at least 75 people with disabilities, and these new trainers are now teaching others. Kimuli Fashionability also contracts with 120 underserved adolescents to collect waste.

The company’s slogan is “waste is only waste if you waste it.” According to its website, Kimuli Fashionability transformed 33 tons of waste into more than 9,000 products to date, proving her slogan and solidifying her contributions to sustainability in Uganda.

The Product Line

Namujju and her team makes fashionable and affordable bags, raincoats, wallets and dresses using upcycled waste from disposal sites. One of Namujju’s most recent designs is a transparent face mask to help people with hearing loss communicate effectively in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Typical face masks cover the mouth with opaque material blocking people from reading lips. Because roughly half of Namujju’s staff is hearing impaired, she saw a need to design a mask that would alleviate the communication barrier. Her face mask design uses a clear, recycled plastic at the center of the mask. She has sold and donated more than 2,000 of these masks.

Upcycled sugar sacks and African fabric make up Kimuli Fashionability’s bright yellow and red rain jackets. The U.N. General Assembly in New York displayed them. The rain jackets also come in neutral colors and feature both children and adult sizes.

The brand also sells duffle bags made out of old cement bags with straps of colorful African fabric. It also sells earrings in different shapes made from vibrant and colorful recycled plastic.

An Inspirational Journey

Though Juliet Namujju creates lasting change in Kampala by employing people with disabilities at Kimuli Fashionability, many with disabilities are still impoverished in Uganda. These people count for over 12% of the population, and only 20% of them do not live in poverty. Namujju wants to continue growing her business and training more people with disabilities. By 2024, her goal is to train more than 1,000 people with disabilities and offer employment to at least half of them. She wants to expand her business and market her clothing in Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya. By 2025, she wants Kimuli Fashionability to own its own production and training center. Throughout, Namujju will continue to teach her fellow Ugandans to look at waste differently and recruit them to solve the waste problem in Uganda.

– Amy Helmendach
Photo: Flickr

PwDs in Kenya
The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated countries worldwide with illness, fear and economic instability. However, its impact has not been equal for everyone. The pandemic has affected persons with disabilities (PwDs) disproportionately. More than 15% of the global population are PwDs, 80% of whom live in developing countries. More than 2.2% (0.9 million people) of the population are PwDs in Kenya, according to the 2019 census.

Connection Between Poverty and Disability

There is undoubtedly a strong correlation between poverty and disability. According to The Aga Khan University, approximately 67% of PwDs in Kenya live in poverty. Before COVID-19, Kenyans living with disabilities already faced pre-existing challenges in accessing health care, education and the workforce. Now, these challenges are deeper than ever as a consequence of the measures to control the virus transmission and expansion, and their impact on the socio-economic aspects of life and service delivery.

Organizations and individuals all over the world have racked their brains to find innovative solutions that could make life easier again after COVID-19.  However, most of these organizations and individuals did not have PwDs in mind. This problem is not exclusive to the COVID-19 era. For persons with disabilities, especially in developing countries like Kenya, solutions and innovation itself are limited for most present-day challenges.

Concerned by this situation, UNDP in Kenya decided to launch an innovation challenge. It Is inviting solutions responding to the socio-economic challenges experienced by PwDs during the pandemic. This way, UNDP Kenya seeks to harness the power of innovation for disability inclusion and social cohesion to promote a stable and secure environment for PwDs to thrive.

UNDP invited registered Kenyan organizations or companies in order to provide those with disabilities access to education, employment and other opportunities. UNDP encouraged the applicants to focus on one of five different areas; Access to Technology, Access to Information, Access to Health Care, Access to Education, Access to Opportunities and Access to Financial Products/Services.

Submissions of applications emerged all over the country and after a rigorous evaluation process, UNDP selected five winners. The five winning organizations received a grant of $8,000 to assist in further development and scale-up of the solutions.

5 Innovative Solutions Improving the Lives of PwDs in Kenya

  1. Action for Children with Disabilities (ACD) – Action for Children with Disabilities (ACD) came up with a solution that tests the use of Virtual reality (VR) to support children with intellectual disabilities to learn. The organization aims to develop educational video tutorials for children with Autism Spectrum disorders. It also uses VR to create simulations on the challenges that PwDs face in their daily lives. It will use this to conduct community sensitization and awareness sessions with the community members.
  2. Kytabu – Kytabu began in 2012. Its goal is to enable African learning institutions and students to leverage education technology platforms by providing and integrating education content to PwDs. Kytabu’s innovative solution adds a mobile-based school management system to the institutions supporting deaf learners. It is helping them to track the learner’s progress and needs. It is also producing reports to share with stakeholders and partners. This data would likely lead to better decision-making in Special needs education’s resources.
  3. Riziki Source – Riziki is a social enterprise that seeks to connect PwDs in Kenya to job opportunities. It created an automatic job-seeking database of people with different kinds of disabilities looking for jobs. Users can download the mobile app and easily register to the platform through their website or by text message, in case they don’t have internet access. Thanks to the platform, employers can easily connect with PwDs seeking jobs and understand the best way to interview and work with PwDs.
  4. Signs Media Kenya – In 2011, Signs Media began with the mission to educate, inform and entertain in sign language by enhancing disability and deaf culture. Signs TV developed an app called “Assist All.” It allows deaf people to access sign language interpreters on demand, facilitating communication where it may not be available. The app counts with a sign language interpreters’ database accessible by the touch of a button through a virtual interface.
  5. The Action Foundation (TAF) – TAF is a youth-led organization that began in 2010. It works with communities and governments to help PwDs. It aims to launch the “Somesha Stories project,” a platform that enables accessible child-friendly stories for early literacy and inclusive education. Learners will be able to access educational content specifically designed for all persons at their schools, from the comfort of their homes and via the Somesha Mobile-Based App. The Somesha stories come in audio, visual, print and sign language formats, hence allowing every child to learn.

Looking Ahead

All these great solutions not only validate Kenya as a hub of knowledge and innovation, but they also show technological transformation is about improving each citizen’s experience, leaving no one behind.

Innovation has and definitely will continue to have a great role in Kenya’s response and recovery to the COVID-19 crisis. Investing in building solutions that can improve the lives of PwDs represents a massive opportunity for Kenya to ensure that its growth is genuinely inclusive and transformational, something crucial for the future of the country.

– Alejandra del Carmen Jimeno
Photo: Flickr

The Action Foundation
Close to 1 million people with some form of disability live in Kenya. They are at a greater risk of living in poverty. Women and adolescent girls with disabilities are even more at risk of poverty, as well as gender-based violence. Maria Omare founded The Action Foundation (TAF) in Kenya, a grassroots nonprofit organization, because she noticed a need for disability awareness, education that caters to children with disabilities in low-income areas and support for the caregivers of children and adolescents with disabilities. The Action Foundation is paving the way for inclusivity and resiliency. It is minimizing disparities in children and adolescents with disabilities and their caregivers through three programs.

The TUNZA Program

The TUNZA program offers support to caregivers of children and adolescents with disabilities. It also provides necessary skills and resources to caregivers. In Kibera, where the center is located, many families live in extreme poverty. They do not have the resources or finances to care for a child with a disability.

Earlier in 2021, The Action Foundation in Kenya launched an inclusive early childhood care education map and referral directory. This tool helps caregivers find and utilize therapy services at little to no cost. This can play a vital role in helping children with disabilities have a better quality of life.

The TUNZA program also brings awareness and education about disabilities because many Kenyans believe that children born with a disability are cursed, bewitched or a bad omen. A survey found that 45% of mothers who have a child with a disability are “pressured to give up and or kill their child.” Other mothers experience coercion to leave their children at an institution. The statistics are even more staggering in rural areas in Kenya.

The IBUKA Program

Many people are taking notice of The Action Foundation’s advocacy efforts and amplifying the organization’s voice, such as Michelle Obama and Google. Michelle Obama publicly highlighted The Action Foundation’s work in teaching girls with disabilities STEM-oriented education, such as robotics and coding, as a partnership with the Girls Opportunity Alliance.

Women and girls with disabilities in Kenya are more likely to face poverty, discrimination and denial of basic needs. Ibuka in Swahili means “emerge” or “rise,” and that is the aspiration of the IBUKA program.

One of the ways the program combats negative stereotypes of women and girls with disabilities and offers them hope is through mentorship and education. It teaches the women and girls the skills necessary, such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and vocational training, so that they can play an active role in the workforce. Women with disabilities are less likely to face poverty, discrimination, exploitation and violence when they are able to work or run their own businesses.

Somesha

Children with disabilities in Kenya are unlikely to attend school due to a lack of accessibility. Also, “less than one in four children with a disability had access to any services.” Many families cannot afford special services for their children as the average monthly income per person is $39, and women in Kibera make 42% less than men.

The SOMESHA program aims to offer accessibility and inclusive education for children with disabilities. It fits the learning to the unique needs of each child. The SOMESHA program created a mobile-based application that improves literacy and promotes inclusivity. It is an interactive application for both caregivers and children. The application was especially helpful during the pandemic when Kenyans could not socialize in large groups.

The heartbeat of The Action Foundation in Kenya is in the people. Maria Omare, the center’s staff and volunteers, the caregivers and the children are what makes the organization thrive. The people of Kenya have historically looked down on people with disabilities as inferior, bewitched and helpless. However, Maria Omare and her team are changing the narrative. They are offering hope and resources to families who have a child with a disability.

– Amy Helmendach
Photo: Unsplash

Disability and Poverty in Nigeria
Disability and poverty in Nigeria have a complex relationship. Socioeconomic and structural factors both play a role in understanding the relationship between disability and poverty in the country.

About Disability and Poverty in Nigeria

Nine out of 10 people with disabilities in Nigeria live below the poverty line of $1.90 a day. In addition, employment options are limited in Nigeria, making it difficult for people with disabilities to emerge from poverty. Fortunately, the Inclusion Works initiative works to improve inclusive employment opportunities for people with disabilities in Nigeria. With funding from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development office of the United Kingdom, the program began in 2018. The program’s deliverables include partnerships with private, public and civil society to influence the inclusion of women and men with disabilities in formal employment.

Disability inclusion also plays an important role in addressing the relationship between disability and poverty. The World Bank has reported that people with disabilities in Nigeria consistently face “stigma, discrimination and barriers to accessing social services and economic opportunities.”

About the Correlation of Disability and Poverty

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a disability is any condition of the body or mind that makes it more difficult for the person with the condition to participate in certain activities and interact with the world around them. In a critical review that the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development funded, Dr. Nora Groce found that education was a key factor “in determining poverty during adulthood for people with disabilities.” According to one of the studies that the review cited, multidimensional poverty is a reason why children with disabilities frequently do not attend school.

The World Bank states that 1 billion people or 15% of the world population experiences some form of disability. The World Health Organization (WHO) also reports that disability is most prevalent in lower-income countries and that disability and poverty correlate and affect each other.

According to a study that the Journal of Disability Policy Studies published, people have increasingly recognized those with disabilities as a high-risk population for multidimensional poverty. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) characterizes multidimensional poverty as deprivation across the domains of health, education and living standards.

Most Common Disabilities in Nigeria

The interactions between disability and poverty in Nigeria are manifold. However, grassroots and governmental efforts are promoting the goal of poverty alleviation at the national level. The 2020 Situational Analysis provides two different estimates of disability prevalence: either 25 million people or 3.3 million people. However, according to a report from the African Disability Rights Yearbook, the five most prevalent disabilities include visual impairment, hearing impairment, intellectual impairment, physical impairment and communication impairment.

Policy Steps Addressing Disability and Poverty in Nigeria

Policies are alleviating the challenges of Nigerians with disabilities. At the grassroots level, several nonprofits exist to improve quality of life, including the Centre for Citizens with Disabilities and the Disability Rights Advocacy Center. Both organizations reside in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria. They ensure the representation of disability as a human rights and policy issue.

The Centre for Citizens with Disabilities promotes the inclusion, participation and access of people with disabilities in both governmental and non-governmental institutions. Founded in 2002 by David Anyaele, the nonprofit is working towards its mission by funding practical research, disability and human rights education, legal aid and peer support.

The Disability Rights Advocacy Center protects the human rights of people and women with disabilities. It achieves its mission through various implementation projects, including the GIRLS Project and Policy to Practice. The former project promotes disability inclusion for girls with disabilities, linking disability concerns with gender-based and sexual violence. Some of the projects’ accomplishments include a commitment from the media to improve coverage of disability issues. In addition, the project has successfully trained women and girls with disabilities to advocate for improved and inclusive sexual and gender-based violence services.

Policy to Practice and Government Efforts

Policy to Practice ensures that people with disabilities have equal access to justice for human rights complaints. Funded by the European Union, its successes include improved knowledge and skills for disability-inclusive service delivery in sexual and gender-based violence and justice actors. Women and girls with disabilities also have improved knowledge and capacity to seek justice for rights violations.

At the governmental level, laws passed promote disability inclusion. For example, the 2018 Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act prevents discrimination based on disability. Passed into law in 2019, it also requires a five-year transitional period after which transportation and public buildings must be accessible.

While the relationship between disability and poverty in Nigeria seems intractable, recent indicators at the national level have revealed a more hopeful picture. Hopefully, in time, poverty among those with disabilities in Nigeria will reduce.

– Ozi Ojukwu
Photo: Flickr

PSRD: Dedicated to Fighting Poverty Among the Specially Abled
Anyone, at any time and anywhere, can fall victim to poverty. However, some factors exist that put some individuals more at risk than others, and disabilities increase the likelihood of families living in poverty. In 2019, 25.9% of disabled people in the United States lived in poverty, more than double the rate for those without disabilities. The specially-abled face higher barriers when trying to find success in their lives and become financially stable. The connection between unemployment and disability remains serious: “half of all working age adults who experience at least one year of poverty have a disability.” In Pakistan, a country where the poverty rate is 5.4%, poverty amongst the specially-abled is significantly higher.

Physical Barriers and Poverty

  1. Health care: One reason for the physically challenged to fall into a state of poverty in Pakistan is the lack of adequate health care. Persons with disabilities are more likely to need extra resources and different types of treatment that are not easily accessible. Health care disparities arise due to societal stigma and a lack of policy changes to provide care that appropriately meets the needs of the specially-abled. There are relatively few advocates in Pakistan who are actively trying to open up more health care options for persons with disabilities. Such environments make it more difficult for poverty-stricken and physically challenged individuals in Pakistan to seek health care.
  2. Employment: The most significant cause of poverty among people with disabilities is the lack of employment opportunities they have. Pakistan ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2011. Pakistani law mandates 2% of hired employees in Pakistani institutions need to be specially-abled individuals, but this law is not always put into practice. For example, a study shows that government departments in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a province in Pakistan, are not meeting the 2% requirement.
  3. Education: Finally, a lack of education is a risk factor for poverty as it prohibits individuals from reaching a level of financial stability. It was found that, while education is accessible for many specially-abled children, rates of actual literacy remain low. More specifically, literacy rates for children with disabilities were much lower than those of their non-disabled peers. Regardless of socioeconomic status and family background, physically challenged students are not receiving the level of education necessary to reach the same standards of comprehension.

PSRD’s Solution

Evidently, many factors lead to the presence of poverty amongst the specially abled. The Pakistan Society for the Rehabilitation of the Differently Abled (PSRD) is a nonprofit organization working to bring specially-abled people out of poverty by focusing on health care, employment and education. Based in Lahore, Pakistan, the organization has worked with the population through the following programs:

  1. Vocational Rehabilitation Center: PSRD allows poverty-stricken and differently-abled individuals to maximize vocational skills. With an aim to eradicate the employment difficulties its students face, the center provides loans to jumpstart businesses. Those who receive help are better able to provide for themselves by becoming entrepreneurs and selling their own, handmade products. With their businesses, beneficiaries of the center are more capable of acquiring their own income and successfully support themselves.
  2. PSRD Hospital: In an effort to make health care more accessible for the specially abled, PSRD’s 100-bed orthopedic hospital is one of the largest in Pakistan. It provides specialized services for the needs of those facing physical barriers. The hospital does not refuse any patients and patients receive services at low or no cost depending on their situation.
  3. Orthotic and Prosthetic Center: With limited access to affordable resources, many physically challenged individuals are unable to obtain prosthetics and artificial limbs that ease their day-to-day lives and open up more employment options. PSRD creates customized prosthetics and approximately 3,900 patients have benefited from the center.
  4. PSRD High School: Education plays a large part in the road to employment and a successful future. By focusing on youth who are specially-abled, PSRD hopes to ignite the talent of all students so that they can lead better lives. The school also serves the needs of each of its students by providing therapy programs and making classes accessible for the most underprivileged children. The high school’s ultimate goal is to release the potential in each student and better “integrate” students into society.

People with physical disabilities are far more likely to face poverty than their non-physically disabled counterparts. With health care disabilities, limited employment options and lower high education rates, poverty may be inevitable for many specially-abled individuals. Organizations such as PSRD in Pakistan are working to empower differently-abled persons and provide them with the resources needed to persevere through their challenges and reach their goals. PSRD works to dismantle poverty amongst the specially-abled in Pakistan.

– Mariam Kazmi
Photo: Unsplash

Disability and Poverty in Liberia
Not everyone with a disability is poor, but countless studies have shown that a large number of those in poverty have at least one disability, ranging from physical to mental types of disabilities. Since those with disabilities require significant access to healthcare, the cost of medical treatments can pose a challenge. Additionally, disabled people frequently find it challenging to access housing, find employment or afford food. A strong connection exists between disability and poverty in Liberia, as is the case with other countries.

Disability and Poverty in Liberia

Liberia is a country along the southern part of the west coast of Africa, which Sierra Leone, Guinea and Côte d’Ivoire surround. It has a population of approximately 4.9 million. The country is Africa’s first republic and is the only African country to never have experienced colonial rule.

From 1999-2003, Liberia endured a harsh civil war. Public Services International believes that this war may have contributed to the increase of disability in Liberia from an initially reported 16% in 1997 to nearly 20%, which is significantly higher than the world’s average at 10%. Of those with disabilities in Liberia, “61% have a mobility disability, 24% are visually impaired, 7% are deaf, and 8% have an intellectual or psychosocial disability.” According to Elizabeth’s Legacy of Hope, 99% of the 48% in poverty in Liberia are those with disabilities.

Non-accommodating infrastructure and social attitudes based on stigmas play a large part in disadvantaging the disabled community in Liberia. Many cannot exercise the basic right to an education, leading then to unemployment. The author Morgan Ashenfelter wrote that “educational facilities do not cater to their needs, employment is difficult to find, sidewalks barely exist in the city and most businesses and government buildings do not even have a ramp. . . . in addition, some disabilities, such as post-traumatic stress disorder or missing limbs, are stigmatized, as they are associated negatively with the war.” 

Addressing Disability and Poverty in Liberia

In the years since the end of Liberia’s civil war, the country has taken steps toward listening to and protecting its disabled population. Liberia established the National Commission on Disabilities in 2005, an organization focused on creating policies to aid disabled Liberian people. In the 12th Session of the United Nations Conference of State Parties to the Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, Liberia announced that it adopted a National Action Plan for the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities. The goal of this plan was to promote the welfare and rights of the disabled in Liberia, while also aiming to include them in the governance process and provide them with financial assistance through social security. Liberia is also planning on including sign language as a required course from elementary school to college.

In December 2018, the Liberia Labor Congress held a joint workshop with the ILO Bureau for Workers’ Activities to discuss the issue of providing work for those with disabilities. Ideally, this work should be able to lift the majority out of poverty, while addressing the lack of significant progress in the last decade and the discrimination that kept many with disabilities out of the workforce.

Looking Ahead

A significant link exists between disability and poverty in Liberia, though it is evident that Liberia is working to change that. The disabled community is among the most vulnerable communities, and it is important that they receive equal opportunities to their non-disabled peers. Liberia is continuing to take steps toward addressing the social stigma and disadvantages that its disabled community experiences.

– Grace Ingles
Photo: Flickr

Disability and Poverty in ChinaIn China, many perceive a lack of access to social infrastructures, such as healthcare and impoverishment due to healthcare expenses as critical issues. It is crucial for populations to understand the inequity that exists among disability and poverty in China, as well as the disadvantages of people within the disability population. Persons with disabilities often experience poverty and lack equal access to social security, education, vocational training and employment opportunities.

High Disability Populations

According to the Second National Sampling Survey on Disability from 2006, the population of people with disabilities hit 82.96 million, or 6.34% of the population of China. Of the number of disabled individuals, approximately 14.86% have visual disabilities, 24.16% have hearing disabilities, 9.07% have a physical disability and 6.68% have an intellectual disability. About 75% (62 million) of the 85 million live in the countryside, and 21% (13 million) of these live in poverty.

Lack of Financial Support

A two-way, negative relationship exists between income and disability. In one direction, poverty can lead to a higher risk of impairment. Low-income households may have difficulty supporting family members with medical impairments. In the other direction, households with family members with disabilities tend to face greater economic challenges and social pressure because people with disabilities are often incapable of fully participating in the economy and society.

Social researchers often describe the double-way relation between disability and poverty in China as a ‘vicious cycle’. People with disabilities fell into the trap of poverty because of the exclusion of social and economic opportunities and the financial burden due to their medical impairment. According to a survey conducted in Nantong city, Hebei Province in north China, one-third of the poor households have one or more family members with disabilities, most of whom are unable to work. People with disabilities continue to be a vulnerable group and may encounter various difficulties in a society whose economy is going through a market-oriented rise such as China.

The Invisible Disabled Community

The Chinese authorities have primarily focused on welfare services concerning poverty relief for people with disabilities and their families, giving the impression that disability is something for individuals to overcome rather than something they should receive accommodation for through accessible infrastructure. In China’s public spaces, people with disabilities are largely invisible. In China, legal recognition of disability comes in the form of a certificate that the China Disabled Persons’ Federation (CDPF) issues. While 85 million Chinese received certificates stating they were disabled in 2010, only 32 million people were disabled as of 2020. However, the certificate functions as an identification that allows disabled people to access a range of welfare services or regional benefits.

To blend into a social environment in which people receive encouragement to carry an “able-ism” mindset, disabled people try to overcome their disability at the expense of their regular participation in society. Consequentially, significant numbers of disabled people experience discouragement from seeking out opportunities and continue to face substantial barriers to poverty relief.

Making Progress

Chinese authorities have primarily focused on establishing general welfare services regarding disability and poverty in China. In recent years, the authorities have launched several welfare programs to address the problems of disability and poverty. The systems that provide living allowances for people with disabilities in poverty and nursing subsidies for severely disabled persons cover more than 24 million people. In the system of subsistence allowances, China currently includes 10.67 million people with disabilities.

The General Office of the State Council issued an outline that encouraged development-oriented poverty reduction starting in 2012. The outline stated that assisting poor rural people with disabilities to join the workforce and increase their income is fundamental for them to minimize poverty. The government managed to build a quota system to take care of the employment need of people with disabilities. According to the laws of the certain provincial government, all private and public employers are required to reserve a minimum of 1.5% of the job opportunities for people with disabilities. Furthermore, there is a range of legal incentives for companies to hire people with disabilities – the government support companies’ recruitments through a variety of means such as tax incentives or financial assistance.

Those with disabilities require greater institutional protection and assistance despite the progress China has made to improve their circumstances. However, continued momentum should help reduce poverty among China’s disabled people.

– Beibei Du
Photo: Flickr


Disability and poverty in Mexico is a significant issue throughout the nation. Unfortunately, some work to address disability and poverty in Mexico stagnated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, political unrest and gang violence threatened progress. However, the work of the Mexican government and social programs are fighting to provide rights and assistance for the disabled.

According to the World Bank, in 2018, an estimated 41.9% of the Mexican population lived at or below the poverty line. Additionally, those living with disabilities made up 7.5% of the population. The majority of those disabled have either a mobile or visual disability. In fact, cognitive and speech disabilities make up 16.13% and 4.87% of the disabled population respectively.

Government Action for the Disabled

The Mexican government led the promotion of disability rights in its region for decades. In 2011, Mexico implemented into law the  General Law for the Inclusion of People with Disabilities (LGPID). This law promotes, protects and guarantees human rights to persons with disabilities and full inclusion into society and equal opportunities.

In addition, the government designated a section in its job portal to helping find jobs for those living with disabilities. And as of 2011, 47.2% of the disabled population have employment while 11.3% live in poverty.

Educational Wins for the Disabled

Mexico’s education system requires that all teachers receive training to work with special needs and disabled students. Two programs known as Unidades de Servicios de Apoyo a la Educacion Regular (USAER) and Centros de Atencion Multiple (CAM) service disabled and special needs students. As of 2011, 2,400 students under CAM and 3,700 under USAER serve approximately 28,000 schools throughout Mexico.

CAM focuses on students whose disabilities require them to have to leave the classroom. USAER focuses on students whose disabilities are not severe enough for them to not be able to attend school. For example, one school in Cozumel provides a physical therapist, a social worker and a psychologist to work with the children and their parents.

Solutions to Fight Poverty

The fight against disability and poverty in Mexico reduced as economic activity slowed down due to the global pandemic. Before the pandemic, the unemployment rate was at 3.44% in January 2019. However, in January 2021, the unemployment rate grew to 4.47%. Unemployment hit rural areas the hardest. As a result, residents of the less developed south often received low productivity and low investments.

To counterbalance the effects of the pandemic, the Mexican government offered advance payments, old-age social pensions and an increase in microcredit loans. The government also halted spending except for priority social programs and major infrastructure projects.

Social programs like CONTIGO and Oportunidades are working to provide financial services to those in poverty. CONTIGO provides financial products to communities that lack access to formal banks. Additionally, the program offers loans and repayment plans to those in poverty and helps customers in financial management. Financial advisors then meet with customers each week to provide support with loan management and repayment plans.

Oportunidades works under the same framework of CONTIGO. It was responsible for reducing around a third of all poverty reduction efforts. The program’s success increased school enrollment rates, nutritional health and health prevention. The program delivers cash directly to families encouraging beneficiaries to send their children to school and the health clinic. Thus alleviating the worry to cover food costs and allows them to make financial investments into a better financial future.

The Future

The work continues in the fight against disability and poverty in Mexico. There is daily progress for disability and poverty in Mexico. Additionally, the Mexican government is making investments into policies and programs. Hopefully, these programs will ensure that all Mexican citizens receive fair treatment and have every opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty.

– Sal Huizar
Photo: Flickr

U.S. Aid in Vietnam
The relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam was at one time a negative one. However, over several decades, both countries have formed a positive and beneficial relationship. In 1995, both countries established a bilateral relationship and have since developed a friendship. The U.S. hopes for Vietnam to one day be strong enough to be independent of aid from outside sources.

Until that day comes, U.S. aid in Vietnam will continue to help the Vietnamese people. In just the past 20 years alone, the U.S. has provided $706 million worth of aid to improve health in Vietnam. In that same amount of time, the U.S. provided an overall total of $1.8 billion in aid to Vietnam.

US Health Aid in Vietnam

Much of the U.S. aid in Vietnam aims to improve the health of the Vietnamese people. In particular, the U.S. hopes to control the spread of infectious diseases in Vietnam such as HIV. There are various programs USAID has operating within Vietnam to achieve this goal. One such program is Healthy Markets. The purpose of this project is to create a market in Vietnam with easy access to viable medical goods and services used to combat HIV. The program called Local Health System Sustainability (LHSS) provides services directly to the government of Vietnam. This project aims to increase the financing of Vietnam’s health sector. These are just two of the 16 health projects operating in Vietnam thanks to USAID.

US Aid to People With Disabilities

The U.S. aid in Vietnam also targets Vietnamese people with disabilities. Over the years, USAID has changed the way it helps Vietnamese people with disabilities. Originally, the U.S. helped this group of people directly by providing prosthetics. Over time, the U.S. has come to appreciate the fact that people with disabilities in Vietnam also need access to important services and the need for their inclusion in Vietnamese society.

Similar to the medical projects, there are also projects in Vietnam working to help Vietnamese people with disabilities. One of these projects is Advancing Medical Care and Rehabilitation and Education. This project is working toward improving care for people with brain impairments. Projections have determined that this project will last until 2023 on a budget of $10.3 million. The project called the Disability Rights Enforcement, Coordination and Therapies is working to make sure disability rights undergo enforcement within Vietnam. This project also works to improve therapy and other essential services for people with disabilities. It will last until 2023 and has a budget of $10.7 million.

Why it Matters

While Vietnam’s poverty rate has been 5.8% as of 2016, U.S. aid in Vietnam still goes a long way. People living in poverty often do not get to participate in the better aspects of society. This makes U.S. aid in Vietnam so important because it allows all people to have a better life including those in poverty. For example, the U.S. has been able to reach 30,000 people with disabilities in Vietnam. It is numbers like this that show the positive impact aid can have on other countries.

– Jacob E. Lee
Photo: Flickr