disabilities in SenegalSenegal has the fourth largest economy in the western region of Africa. However, half of Senegal’s population still lives in extreme poverty. Due to the limited disability services provided by Senegal’s government, the barriers that people are encountering under poverty are amplified for Senegalese people who have a disability. Efforts towards improving disability services in Senegal are currently focusing on accessibility within education and economic inclusion.

Improving Educational Opportunities

Children with disabilities often miss out on quality education due to a lack of accessibility services. It is estimated that, in West Africa, one in four children with a disability does not attend school. Many organizations are working to improve the education system in Senegal to make it more accessible for people with disabilities. One organization is Sightsavers Senegal.

There are 700,000 people in Senegal who have a visual impairment, which includes thousands of children. Sightsavers Senegal started a pilot program in order to address the large number of visually impaired students who are excluded from the education system in Dakar. The program began in 2011, and by 2016, 187 students with visual impairments were enrolled in three different schools.

Sightsavers was able to provide scholarships to students along with textbooks that had been translated into braille. Facilities and technology were also adapted in order to accommodate students with a visual impairment. Sightsavers was able to collaborate with Senegal’s Ministry of Education to provide resources and training for students and educators to include more inclusive learning spaces for children with visual impairments.

The success of this pilot program provided incentives to the Senegalese government to uphold the program and work towards expansion nationwide. This budget has allowed for the addition of assistive facilities and learning resources in two more regions in Senegal.

Improving Economic Inclusion

Gaining economic independence and success is often difficult for individuals with disabilities. Job training and matching are challenging when services aren’t available to facilitate the movement of people with disabilities into the workforce. Senegal enforces a minimum access quota to provide employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities in both private and public sector jobs. These quotas minimize the number of people out of work due to a disability. The Ministry of Civil Service, Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Technical and Vocational Training are in charge of implementing and enforcing the quota.

In Senegal, Humanity & Inclusion’s “EMPHAS” Project is working to provide training and services to help individuals with disabilities work towards economic security. Their focus has mainly been pointed towards women and young people who have disabilities. Humanity & Inclusion focuses not only on the technical training side of job fields but also advocates for accessible facilities. At least 500 adults and 90 public and private employers have benefited from the implementation of EMPHAS.

In March 2019, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, under the U.N., assessed the efforts being made towards improving disability services in Senegal. The committee identified areas where more intervention can be made, such as more vocational training and a focus on the implementation of services. Although there is still a portion of the disabled community in Senegal experiencing exclusion, resource allocation and a focus on making facilities more accessible have contributed to improving disability services in Senegal.

Claire Bryan

Photo: Flickr

Children with Disabilities in China
China, one of the most populated countries in the world, is home to many children with special needs. According to statistics from China Disabled Persons’ Federation, there are 80 million people with various disabilities living in China today, constituting six percent of the total population.

More than one million babies are born with birth defects annually and a baby is born with a disability every 30 seconds in China. To aid these children, various organizations are fighting to improve how children with disabilities in China can receive an education.

Regulations of Education of Persons with Disabilities

In 2017, Human Rights Watch reported that the Chinese government released an updated Regulations of Education of Persons with Disabilities to replace the out-of-date 1994 regulations.

According to the Watch’s report, the regulations mandated local governments to plan and fund resources to the education of people with disabilities as an encouragement to enhance education for children with disabilities in China. The Watch further reported that the regulation examined teacher training, evaluation and required schools to develop individualized educational plans for students with a disability.

Human Rights Watch stressed that it is vital to identify and remove barriers to learning and changing practices in schools. The nonprofit further reported that it is essential to provide reasonable accommodations that meet the individual needs of each student, including those with disabilities.

The Watch defines reasonable accommodation in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as “necessary and appropriate modification and adjustments not imposing a disproportionate or undue burden.” In this aspect, children with disabilities in China can receive such accommodations, if they so require.

Community-Based Day Care Centers for Children with Disabilities in China

UNICEF works with the China Disabled Persons’ Federation to expand access to necessary social services for children with disabilities. According to UNICEF, they developed a model for community-based day care centers.

The centers meet the social service needs of children with disabilities in China and help parents cope with the additional childcare responsibilities, according to UNICEF. At these centers, UNICEF reports that disabled children can access rehabilitation services and participate in sports, games and activities fulfilling education and awareness-raising purposes.

In addition, UNICEF assists with annual surveys that gather data for policy recommendations to improve the lives of the families and children with disabilities in China. The rise in enrollment reflects UNICEF’s efforts to support these children so they can complete the entire nine years of basic education in China.

Learning in Regular Classrooms

According to the World Bank, the educational policy for children with disabilities in China is unique in that it admits several disabled children with specific educational needs into regular schools. The World Bank reported that in China, this method of special education is referred to as “Learning in Regular Classrooms”(LRC).

In LRC practice, the World Bank reported that resource rooms allow students with specific educational needs to study in regular classroom environments. The rooms mimic regular classrooms but supply additional resources for children with specific educational needs, such as extra teaching equipment and accommodations, textbook resources and aides.

International China Concern

International China Concern (ICC), was founded in 1993 by David Gotts after witnessing firsthand the suffering of abandoned Chinese children with disabilities in desperate conditions. ICC seeks to empower and train local staff to save lives, support families, transform communities and change public attitudes towards children with disabilities in China. According to ICC, the organization’s reputation and relationships in China place it in an excellent position to aid through family-style group homes and provide specialist services for the neediest children.

Michele Harris, Board Chair of USA Office at China Concern, voiced her outlook on the foundation’s success.

“I am inspired by ICC’s ability to sow the seeds of regard within the children and young adults they love and care for, the welfare officials they respect and work beside, and the caregivers they train and mentor. We must feel pride in their accomplishments and see every individual as a unique and powerful piece of God’s image.”

According to a newsletter by American Friends of ICC, students like 12-year-old Suisui are determined to overcome their obstacles, in his case, cerebral palsy.

The newsletter highlights that while some students might complain about school, Suisui not only attends with delight but he wheels himself to class 30 minutes each way. The article reflects how Suisui thoroughly enjoys going to daily classes and works hard, an embodiment of his learning potential. The newsletter attributes that Suisui can count, recognize numbers and perform simple math.

Through ICC’s Child Sponsorship Program, people can volunteer and get matched with a child and embark on a life-changing journey to transform lives.

Rights of Persons with Disabilities

To aid the fight for equal education, The World Bank has signed the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to affirm their commitment to Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4). SDG4 ensures equal access to all levels of education for persons with disabilities by 2030.

Children with disabilities in China need as many people as possible to make a difference. UNICEF provides different ways to aid and uplift those with special needs, whether it be in your area or overseas in China.

Carolina Chavez
Photo: Creative Commons

solar powered hearing aidsThere are 466 million people in the world who are deaf or living with disabling hearing loss, which amounts to more than 1 in 20 people worldwide. The majority of these people do not have the funds to buy hearing aids and the batteries required to keep them going. Currently, there are two companies pioneering solar-powered hearing aids in order to help those living in poverty to afford and power hearing aids.

Poverty and Hearing Aids

Approximately 89 percent of those who are hearing impaired live in low and middle-income countries. However, the production of hearing aids currently only meets around 10 percent of the need worldwide. Because traditional hearing aids are expensive, the majority of these hearing aids are going to those who can afford them. This typically means that people in developing countries are going without.

Traditional hearing aids typically cost around $1,000 and have an average battery life of only one to two weeks. Because of this huge financial barrier, solar-powered hearing aids are dramatically changing the accessibility of hearing aids for low-income people in developing countries. Even more importantly, they are cheaper and last longer than traditional hearing aids.

Godisa Technologies was a Botswana-based non-governmental organization (NGO) that began research on the solar-powered hearing aid in 1992. Godisa Technologies aimed to manufacture hearing aids that were accessible to those with hearing disabilities in Africa and throughout the developing world. Godisa Technologies shut down in 2008 due to a lack of funding, but its research led to two companies pioneering solar-powered hearing aids. Solar Ear and Deaftronics provide inexpensive and long-lasting hearing aids all across the developing world.

Solar Ear

Solar Ear is a solar-powered hearing aid company based out of Brazil. Solar Ear’s hearing aid was designed by Howard Weinstein, a former Peace Corps volunteer at Godisa Technologies. These hearing aids only cost around $100 and have a battery lifespan of around three years, which is approximately one-tenth of the price of traditional hearing aids for 150 times the lifespan.

Solar Ear designs their hearing aids specifically for young children living in regions without access to deaf education. Their mission is to provide solar-powered hearing aids to children before the age of three so that they can learn to communicate and receive an education alongside their hearing peers. The hearing aids are manufactured and produced by people with disabilities in Brazil, Botswana and China. They are now available in more than 40 countries.

Deaftronics

Deaftronics is another company pioneering solar-powered hearing aids. Deaftronics was created in 2009 by Tendekayi Katsiga, another former employee of Godisa Technologies. Katsiga, like Weinstein, knew that Godisa’s hearing aids were still too expensive for many people to afford and wanted to build a company that took this technology a step further.

Deaftronics provides solar-powered hearing aids along with four rechargeable batteries for $200. These hearing aids have an overall lifespan of up to twelve years. By 2015, Deaftronics had already sold more than 10,000 hearing aids to people in Botswana, Zimbabwe, Kenya, South Africa and Angola. But, Katsiga became convinced that solar-powered hearing aids alone could not be the only solution to hearing loss. In an attempt to provide a cheap and easy way to catch hearing loss early and prevent it from worsening, Deaftronics has also produced a mobile app that allows people to test for early signs of hearing loss.

Solar powered hearing aids have become readily accessible in many developing countries due to the dedication of Solar Ear and Deaftronics. These two companies pioneering solar-powered hearing aids have changed the world for those who previously could not afford them. The technology has been crucial in making hearing aids accessible to the world’s poor. Thanks to solar-powered hearing aids, children who would otherwise be unable to learn to talk or communicate are able to go to school and learn regardless of where they live or how much money their families have.

Macklyn Hutchison

Photo: Flickr

children with disabitiesThere are approximately 1.5 billion people around the world living with a disability. These individuals face significant barriers to receiving an education, particularly in developing countries. Children with disabilities in Bangladesh, for example, are often misunderstood by their parents, community members and educators, making it difficult for them to attend school. Showing links between poverty and disabilities helps make this issue a priority of the Bangladesh government and other organizations working in the nation.

Poverty and Disabilities

In developing countries, poverty and disabilities often reinforce each other. According to the World Bank, 15 to 20 percent of the poor in developing countries are disabled. Many disabilities are created by conditions caused by poverty, including lack of healthcare access, poor hygiene and sanitation, dangerous living conditions, war and violence, insufficient nutrition and natural disasters. These conditions improve the likelihood of people developing disabilities in the first place, of which 50 percent are preventable.

Being disabled is an additional disadvantage for the impoverished, one that makes it even less likely for an individual or their family to rise out of poverty. When access to education for children with disabilities is low, these children are not able to learn the skills needed to work and earn money for themselves or their families. As a result, they tend to be dependents their entire lives, creating an additional economic burden for those who care for them.

In Bangladesh, husbands and wives in impoverished families often both need to work. With a disabled child, however, mothers are often prevented from working, eliminating that source of income. Additionally, medical care for the child is expensive and generally inaccessible to impoverished families in Bangladesh. While it is not the child’s fault that they are disabled, their disability can be difficult for impoverished families to bear and may make it impossible for them to break the poverty cycle.

Barriers to Education

As of 2010, there were approximately 1.6 million children with disabilities in Bangladesh, and fewer than 5,000 of them were enrolled in education programs designed for the disabled. Special education programs are not present in many Bangladesh schools. As a result, most educators are not trained to effectively work with children with disabilities.

Many schools deny admittance to children with disabilities, and those who do go to school often drop out within a short period of time. In addition to lack of adequate programming, the school buildings themselves are often inaccessible to those with disabilities. They lack elevators, automatic doors, handicapped toilet facilities and more.

Furthermore, the impoverished parents of children with disabilities in Bangladesh are often illiterate and do not have access to information about the rights of their child. They may not know that their child has a constitutional right to an education. Furthermore, even if they do know, they lack the funds needed to fight for their child.

Families and communities sometimes also lack information about what it means to be disabled, particularly if they are poor and illiterate. Children with disabilities are sometimes neglected and ignored and are often kept inside the home to prevent ridicule from the community. Abuse is also common, particularly for girls. Females are at an increased risk of physical and sexual abuse.

Improving Access to Education

The government is working to implement reforms that will increase education access to children with disabilities in Bangladesh. Many of these reforms include ensuring knowledge about the disabled is more widely disseminated. Community awareness programs are needed to teach people about disabilities, reduce stigma and generate more support for improving education for children with disabilities.

Additionally, knowledge of disabilities must be included in the basic training of teachers, and it can be reinforced or introduced to current teachers through in-service training. While it is also beneficial to have some teachers who can specialize in working with children with disabilities, all teachers need to be trained so that disabled children have a better chance of succeeding in any classroom.

Programs for Children with Disabilities

As of 2011, the government opened 13 primary schools specifically for people with disabilities. They are also implementing 64 integrated programs within high schools for the disabled. These efforts are undoubtedly making an impact, but many children with disabilities may not have access to these locations. There is a definite need to significantly expand these programs, creating more schools focused on disabilities around the country and ensuring all schools have programs for children with disabilities.

In the absence of widespread disability programming at public schools, BRAC has been working to expand education for children with disabilities in Bangladesh. More than 30,000 non-formal education centers have been established across the nation over the past two decades, and currently, 43,000 children are using these education centers. BRAC is committed to ensuring that the impoverished children and those in remote areas have access to schools.

Overall, efforts by the government and outside agencies, including BRAC, are an important step forward, but further growth and expansion are needed to ensure that all children with disabilities in the nation are able to access high-quality education. This will reduce the economic burden on their families and, hopefully, allow them to find work once they reach adulthood, helping them and their families escape poverty.

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

Aged and Disabled in UkraineThe elderly population is the fastest growing age group worldwide, and two-thirds of its population lives in low-income and middle-income countries. Such geographic locations have greater likelihoods of humanitarian crises, and the impacts of humanitarian disasters in these countries are more severe. Research shows the aged and disabled in Ukraine also have higher rates of poverty than younger, non-disabled people, making them more vulnerable during disasters. More than one-fifth of Ukraine’s population (more than 9.5 million people) were over the age of 60 in 2018. The country also is facing one of the world’s most acute global crises today.

Increased Vulnerability and Disproportionate Effects

According to HelpAge International (HAI), marginalization is having greater effects on older individuals, especially older women and the disabled. Since 2014, older persons have constituted more than one-third of the conflict-affected population — equivalent to more than one million people. Many of them have fled their homes due to violence along the contact line — a line dividing government-controlled areas (GCA) from non-government-controlled areas (NGCA). The number of affected people continues to rise as the ceaseless fighting impacts the mental health of the aged and disabled in Ukraine. These populations must contend with widespread landmines and restricted access to nutrition, healthcare, housing, pensions, fuel and public transportation.

Residents living along either side of the contact line and in NGCA are among the most vulnerable in Ukraine because humanitarian access is severely restricted in these areas.

The majority of individuals residing in and displaced from NGCA collect pensions. However, they can claim their pensions only if they are registered as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in GCA. They must also undergo complex and discriminatory vetting for pension verification, including home visits, physical identification in banks and additional safeguards. This approach is riddled with liabilities and creates serious humanitarian consequences because pensions are the sole source of income for most pensioners in NGCA. If approved, administrative requirements demand the aged and disabled travel through five checkpoints along the contact line every few months to avoid pension suspension. These individuals spend 50 to 80 percent of their monthly pension on travel expenses. Consequently, many seniors are cut off from their pensions because they either are physically unable to travel to GCA or cannot afford the trip.

Pensions are not the only reason seniors cross the contact line. They also cross to visit with family, obtain documentation and access medical services. The many restrictions imposed on crossing result in older and disabled persons waiting at entry and exit checkpoints for extended periods of time without adequate facilities like toilets, drinking water or shelter. Red tape often prohibits them from crossing with necessary items like medications and food as these may not be permitted goods. People also must renew their electronic passes on regular basis if they plan to cross — a near impossibility for much of the senior population who has no computer or internet access. These conditions are detrimental to the well-being of the aged and disabled, creating a dire need for mental health services, psychosocial support and life-saving aid.

Forgotten in the Midst of Crises

Marginalizing the older and disabled during disasters is not unique to Ukraine. In 2015, HAI interviewed hundreds of seniors across Ukraine, Lebanon and South Sudan. In all three countries, there was evidence of neglect. Most interviewees said they had never met with anyone to discuss their needs nor did they have sufficient information about available assistance. Almost 50 percent complained that health services were not equipped to treat their age-related conditions, and nearly half said they suffered from anxiety or depression.

Humanitarian Relief for the Aged and Disabled in Ukraine

HAI has worked with the elderly in Ukraine for more than 10 years and has provided them with community safe spaces. The organization has also directed advocacy and coordination efforts with NGOs and UN agencies to ensure that seniors are not excluded from receiving services and psychosocial support. HAI has established support groups and provided home-based care activities, assistive devices and hygiene kits to those of advanced age. However, despite the organization’s humanitarian assistance, a survey they conducted in 2018 showed that those aged 60 and older are still suffering.

The findings were echoed at a 2018 conference organized by the European Commission and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Brussels. The conference highlighted the support that the WHO and partners have given Ukraine to help combat the devastating effects of the country’s ongoing crisis. During the conference, it also was noted that despite the efforts of the WHO and its health partners, Ukrainian health needs still are on the rise. Speakers attributed the lack of improvement to a weak health system, limited disease prevention and insufficient treatment for chronic illnesses.

The conference also confirmed that the European Union (EU) will provide an additional €24 million to conflict-affected persons in eastern Ukraine, bringing their aid total for Ukraine to more than €677 million. The money will be used to fulfill the essential needs of the most vulnerable populations along the contact line, including IDPs and those in NGCA.

With coordinated efforts and increased humanitarian funding, permanent change for Ukraine is on the horizon.

– Julianne Russo
Photo: Pixabay

Special Education in refugee camps
Lack of education is a contributing factor to the cycle of poverty. The 1989 ‘Convention on the Rights of the Child’ and the 1951 ‘Refugee Convention’ emphasizes the fact that access to education is a basic human right. However, approximately half of the world’s refugee children are out of schools. Access to schooling becomes increasingly difficult when countries enter conflicts and develop refugee camps.

The United Nations passed the ‘Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities’ in 2006. The declaration clearly stated disabled peoples’ right to an education. This right is only accessible in 28 percent out of 193 states, and although there are many initiatives to support special education in refugee camps, further support is needed to help refugees with disabilities obtain and maintain the education they need.

Classification of Disabilities

Disability can be categorized into two branches: mental disability and physical disability. A mental disability is any mental disorder that affects the everyday life of an individual, and examples include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, intellectual disabilities and schizophrenia. A physical disability is an impairment of the body and/or a person’s motor abilities. These are either acquired at birth or as a result of a traumatic experience and include cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy and amputations.

Obstacles Faced by Refugee Children

Special education in refugee camps is not an easy task to accomplish, and there are many obstacles that refugee children with disabilities must face in order to receive an education. The first obstacle is very simple to notice — the challenge of getting to school. In many large refugee camps, there are typically no more than a few schools that children can go to and children usually walk to school. For people with physical disabilities, transportation can pose a great problem, especially as most infrastructure is not built to accommodate disabilities. For example, an 8-year-old girl named Hayam lives in the Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan and suffers from muscular dystrophy. Hayam had to take a quarter-mile walk to her school every day, and her illness made this very difficult.

Another obstacle for people with disabilities is the misunderstanding of physical and mental disabilities in many communities. In many cases, people are taught to fear and look down on people who have disabilities. There are situations in which parents of able-bodied children do not want to have students with disabilities in the same classroom as their child for fear that their child’s education will be harmed.

Furthermore, integration into schools for refugee students can be a difficult task due to political, cultural, religious or linguistic differences. It can be extremely hard for schools to deal with these differences and misconceptions if they lack necessary resources, and such status is incredibly harmful to refugee children with disabilities as it can make it very difficult for them to receive schooling. Refugees are also likely to have PTSD and other related mental disorders due to witnessed trauma, and such effects can harshly affect education if there are no treatments for mental disorders that make it difficult for children to pay attention in class or attend school at all.

Organizational Support

UNICEF and Mercy Corps helped 100 students in the Za’atari refugee camps in Jordan. The two organizations have given wheelchairs to students who have physical disabilities and cannot walk. In another part of the world, the Karen Women Organization (KWO) works in Burma to support special education in refugee camps and rights for the disabled. Not only does KWO aim to ensure increased levels of education, but the organization also aims to support and expand care to children who have disabilities and educate the community.

In 2003, the KWO started the Special Education (SE) Project that runs in every Karen refugee camp. SE Project gives instruction to teachers in the schools and families at home to fully maximize the disabled child’s well-being and reach their goal of integration into society. KWO also helps to combat the misconceptions by creating various activities and workshops for those who are able-bodied and those who are not.

A nongovernmental organization helping refugees receive mental healthcare is the International Medical Corps (IMC). The IMC knows that mental illness is a huge limiting factor for education and they work to make sure there are ways that refugee children can acquire treatment. The group works with local partners in refugee camps to create spaces to talk and provide activities for children and adolescents to develop healthy habits and create relationships. IMC connects children to local youth support and sets up sustainable mental healthcare.

An Unalienable Right

Education is an unalienable right of every person, and special education in refugee camps is crucial for enabling the most endangered people to achieve this right. It is critically important that various organizations and governments continue to build systems that support the abilities of all, especially those most vulnerable.

– Isabella Niemeyer

Photo: Flickr

LebanonThe fact remains clear worldwide that education fosters better economic opportunity. Inclusive education has become an important global poverty issue for this reason. Yet, Lebanon still struggles to provide a proper education for disabled children. This can potentially leave handicapped individuals at a disadvantage when compared to their peers.

Current situation

Lebanese schools often decline disabled children due to discrimination and inadequate accommodations. When these children can attend school, they struggle with a lack of specialized care. They find that no individualized lesson plans exist for them and teachers have no special training. Most schools even lack the appropriate architecture for wheelchair access.

The burden of these shortcomings often falls on the parents. They may pay high traveling fees as a handicap-friendly school can often lie miles away from home of the children. Other schools might charge the parents for a specialized tutor. If the parents cannot pay these costs, their child can end up without an education at all.

This trend has led to some disturbing statistics in education for disabled children. The Lebanese Physical Handicapped Union (LPHU) conducted a study in 2014 from a sampling of disabled individuals. They discovered that 54% of these individuals had only received a primary level of education. Of this 54%, 24% still reported having issues with illiteracy.

Law 220

Issues such as these persist despite Lebanon law requiring non-discriminatory education for disabled children. Law 220, created in 2000, ensures this right for all disabled individuals. Yet, fifteen years later, only five public schools had built the modifications to allow wheelchair access.

Residential facilities for those with disabilities seems the best this law can provide. Yet, many question the quality of the education received. Many children come out of these facilities still illiterate or even without finishing school. These facilities have also reported dangers such as child and adult residents residing together.

The main issue, it seems, resides in enforcing and implementing Law 220. Human Rights Watch (HRW) suggests that the Lebanon government must change its policies. It advises them to “develop guidelines and standards on inclusive classrooms” and “revise the teacher training materials”. Along with this, the government must “strengthen and regulate the monitoring of schools”.

To its credit, the government has noticed the issue and has taken measures to fix it. HRW reports that the education sector, the Ministry of Education and High Education (MEHE), has plans for a 2018 pilot program. Under this program, children with learning disabilities will be integrated into 30 schools. Six schools will enroll children who have “visual, hearing, physical, and moderate intellectual disabilities”.

Private organizations and UNICEF have also made efforts to build accessibility modifications to school facilities. Others pay for specialized teachers and materials for those with visual impairments so they may attend school. Lebanese teachers themselves are also fighting to develop a strategy that will improve inclusion.

The UN estimated that in 2001, 10% of the population in Lebanon has a disability. At a current population of 6,094,089, this means that over 600,000 individuals might face difficulties with education access in Lebanon. As the population of Lebanon has grown since then, this number has increased.

Over 600,000 individuals can remain trapped in cycles of poverty due to something they have no control over. This does not seem fair and many organizations, including the government, agree. Hopefully, this assessment will give the Lebanese government and other organizations the incentive to keep fighting for a fully inclusive education.

Elizabeth A. Frerking

Photo: Flickr

Reduce poverty among the disabledEliminating global poverty requires both aid organizations and the global community to recognize and ensure the rights of people with disabilities. At least one billion people worldwide experience some type of disability, and many of those people account for the world’s poor. Evidence suggests that people with disabilities represent a large selection of the world’s poor. The World Health Survey data shows that in five out of 15 developing countries, households where at least one family had a disability, had significantly fewer assets and lower levels of income.

Poverty and Disabilities

Economic inequality is exacerbated by discrimination that has manifested as a lack of employment opportunities for disabled people, especially in developing countries. The difficult economic circumstances facing impoverished, disabled persons and the lack of opportunities for upward mobility can have life-threatening consequences.

The World Health Organization’s World Report on Disability found that people with disabilities were found to be 20 percent less likely to be able to afford necessary healthcare. Poverty exacerbates the effects of all of these externalities, which makes it extremely crucial to address these issues in developing nations and begin reducing the poverty of the disabled.

It’s also important to recognize the interconnectedness of all of these issues and that they stem from institutional barriers and an uneven distribution of opportunities. Poverty and inequality are inevitably linked, which means that a focus on reducing the inequality of economic opportunities will reduce poverty as well.

This poverty reduction doesn’t solely apply to disabled people. The International Labor Organization conducted a study of 10 low-income developing countries and found that an estimated 3-7 percent of GDP is lost each year due to the exclusion of disabled people from the labor market.

Everyone benefits from providing employment opportunities for disabled people and uplifting them out of poverty, but it requires tearing down the negative social and political barriers that have pervaded society in regards to the disabled population. This is the only way to effectively reduce poverty. One organization has worked with developing nations across the world to ensure a disabled person’s right to a life without poverty.

The Disability Rights Fund

The Disability Rights Fund (DRF) is an organization that promotes advocacy for people with disabilities by empowering those identifying as disabled to advocate for themselves. The group has expanded its efforts to several developing nations. They’ve worked to increase the participation of disabled people to advocate for the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons. Their leaders provide grants and support systems that promote the economic well-being of disabled people in developing nations.

Albert Mollah of The Access Bangladesh Foundation spoke highly of the positive effect one of these grants had on their operations. A grant from The Disability Rights Fund allowed them to meet with several disabled persons’ organizations to provide feedback to the Bangladeshi government on how to improve the livelihoods of their disabled constituents.

The Access to Bangladesh Foundation recommended that the government include persons with disabilities in all safety net programs, raise awareness among duty bearers about the contributions that those with disabilities can make in society, track data and ensure access and disability inclusion to infrastructure and information.

Grants from The Disability Rights Fund have had similar success with the OHANA group in Indonesia and the Uganda National Association of the Deaf. The DRF pools its vast resources and directs them towards groups that are credibly working to alleviate the impacts of inequality for the poor and disabled.

Disabled people are particularly susceptible to poverty because of cultural misconceptions. Concentrated efforts against the social and political barriers faced by the disabled will help to reduce poverty and spread awareness of the issue. Combating the marginalization of the disabled by these cultural misconceptions will help everyone by opening access to a plethora of highly skilled workers.

– Anand Tayal
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Orphans in ChinaChina, being home to over 1.4 billion people, currently faces an issue of housing for one of its most vulnerable and impressionable demographics: orphans. These 10 facts about orphans in China will show how many orphans are brought in to the adoption system in infancy with little to no knowledge of the journey to come.

10 Facts About Orphans in China

  1. Being an orphan does not necessarily mean that the child is parentless. In fact, many of the children seeking new homes have parents that are either unable to take care of them or have abandoned them for various reasons.
  2. According to a 2016 statistic, there are currently more than 460,000 orphans in China. The exact number of orphans is undetermined, as the statistic may only show state-operated orphanages.
  3. The vast majority of abandoned children suffer from severe birth defects and serious health issues. However, parents are unable to provide them with proper care; likewise, the state does not provide medical assistance for abandoned children.
  4. Many children, usually newborns, are usually given to baby hatches. A baby hatch is a small home where parents drop off children, where they hopefully will be taken to an orphanage.
  5. The Ministry of Civil Affairs began the baby hatch program as a response to the increasing number of abandoned infants. Currently, there are 32 baby hatches across China, and each hatch only accepts children from within the same city.
  6. Children with disabilities are usually unable to find homes that can provide specific medical attention, and after a certain age, some live within senior homes.
  7. Chinese orphanages are highly lacking in the proper education and medical resources needed for disabled children. As a result, disabled children are often excluded from activities necessary for social development.
  8. According to the Adoption Law of the People’s Republic of China, children over the age of 14 become ineligible for international adoption, at which point they are either transferred to a senior living center or have to find work.
  9. The potential parent of an adoptive child can refuse to adopt the child before the age of 10 without consent from the child. Once the child reaches 10 years of age, they are given the right to consent an adoptive relationship.
  10. It is also understood that if the relationship between the child and the adoptive parent begins to negatively impact the child’s life, the adoption can be terminated through a mutual agreement.

These 10 facts about orphans in China shed some light on a large and controversial issue. Although China is able to provide a multitude of opportunities for jobless adults, enact laws on senior care and ensure its citizens are not left behind, there is very little knowledge of or care for welfare-seeking children. In hopes of combating these issues, organizations such as Rainbow Kids work alongside orphanages and other nonprofits to provide the education and parental assistance needed to ensure the children’s safety and well-being, giving them hope and opportunities for the future.

– Adreena Carr

Photo: Flickr

Closing the Gap for Children with Disabilities in VietnamChildren with disabilities are one of the many marginalized groups in the world that often face discrimination. In many countries, cultural beliefs dictate that disabilities arise from the influences of past lives, supernatural forces or the past actions of a parent.

Education is one of the most effective ways of not only breaking these myths, but also breaking the cycle of discrimination experienced by children with disabilities. According to information gathered from the Global Disability Rights Now, approximately 5.8 percent of Vietnam’s population, 5,203,180 people, are living with disabilities. Of these, 23.3 percent are children with disabilities in Vietnam under the age of 19.

Disabled children are less likely to finish or even begin school for many reasons, including gaining little to no access to adequate learning materials, having a lack of trained professionals who understand their needs and having no proper facilities to attend school. Denying these children the right to education not only impacts their learning, but also any hinders any chances of employment opportunities and social and personal development. In order for all children to benefit from basic human rights without facing prejudice, disability inclusion needs to be integrated into all policies and plans devised by a country.

The World Bank has shown support for integrating inclusive education practices for children with disabilities through lending projects and activities. One of the programs implemented for children with disabilities in Vietnam is the Vietnam Intergenerational Deaf Education Outreach Project (IDEO). Under the IDEO, sign language is taught to deaf children and their families in the comfort of their own homes by a mentor who is hearing impaired, a sign language interpreter and a teacher who can hear.

Evaluations documented and recorded from the project showed that using sign language helped to improve deaf children’s language and cognitive development and also their ability to communicate with others. The outreach project has also helped more than 50 deaf adults become mentors to children who are hearing impaired, trained approximately 200 hearing teachers to use sign language in order to effectively support deaf children and instructed more than 50 hearing people as communication facilitators or sign-language interpreters.

The implementation of the IDEO project has strengthened school involvement and organizations in backing the education of deaf children, and has also opened a new method to teaching sign language for these children with disabilities in Vietnam. With the support of similar projects being integrated in the near future, the gap for achievement for disabled children will hopefully decrease.

– Zainab Adebayo

Photo: Flickr