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

Disability-inclusive COVID-19 ResponsesFor those living in developing countries, there is a direct link between poverty and disability, as each factor has the potential to influence the other. The World Bank estimates that 20% of the world’s poorest “have some kind of disability.” As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate existing problems faced by marginalized groups, and particularly people living with disabilities, it is important that developing countries around the world implement disability-inclusive COVID-19 responses.

Throughout the entire world, roughly one billion people –15% of the total population– live with some form of disability. Within this figure, 80% of people living with disabilities reside in a developing country. People living with disabilities often face adversities such as “less education, poorer health outcomes, lower levels of employment, and higher poverty rates.”

Impact of COVID-19 On People With Disabilities

Through a policy brief, the United Nations found that people with disabilities face greater risks of contracting COVID-19. They risk developing severe and sometimes fatal conditions from the virus as well as health care discrimination. People with disabilities are often reliant on physical touch for support, which is difficult considering the importance of remaining socially distant and using hand-washing facilities. Additionally, people with disabilities often face secondary health conditions that are worsened by COVID-19.

Resource-rationing in healthcare facilities is often guided by ableist ideas on “quality or value of life based on disability,” making people with disabilities a lower priority with regard to life-saving resources. People living with disabilities face even worse conditions when living in poverty, particularly in the areas of education, health and transportation. Not only are some health care services inaccessible, but important information on how to stop the spread of COVID-19 is rarely provided by way of Braille, captions or sign-language interpretation.

Approximately 90% of children who live with a disability in developing countries are not in school, and school-shutdown mandates leave these children with even fewer resources. Without school, many are unable to receive resources such as sanitation, water and meal programs. Lastly, those who rely on public transportation for medical appointments or fundamental necessities are unable to travel. These adversities contribute to the global need for disability-inclusive COVID-19 responses.

Disability-Inclusive Responses to COVID-19

Although people with disabilities are often left out of global crisis responses, efforts to implement disability-inclusive COVID-19 responses continue. The Peruvian government implemented Legislative Decree No. 1468, which establishes protective measures for people with disabilities as prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through this decree, the state recognizes people with disabilities as having the right to “personal security” and priority access to any services provided by the state. Although some Peruvians with disabilities still feel as though there are barriers that limit their access to resources, the government’s efforts still offer many benefits.

Inclusion International, a network that advocates for the human rights of those with intellectual disabilities, reported on a growing trend. Various regional networks are unifying to “identify, document, and advocate against the discrimination and exclusion that people with intellectual disabilities are facing in their region.” These efforts include the European COVID Impact report and Pan-African advocacy. Members of Inclusion International currently work to collect data and experiences about the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities in Latin America. This project, known as the Latin American Project, aims to identify the key factors that obstruct disability-inclusive responses to COVID-19. It includes countries such as Brazil, Peru, Uruguay and Bolivia.

Work remains to implement disability-inclusive COVID-19 responses, especially in developing countries. However, efforts to address the adversities of people with disabilities are certainly on the rise. With this work continuing into the future, inclusive advocacy will soon be the standard, not the goal.

Cory Utsey
Photo: Unsplash

primary microcephalyCouples and women commonly come to pray for fertility at the shrine of Shah Daula in Gujarat, Pakistan. According to certain beliefs, women who conceive after praying at the shrine donate their firstborn child to the shrine to prevent disabilities from appearing in the rest of their children. These children, dubbed the “rat children of Shah Daula,” largely suffer from primary microcephaly, a medical condition where the head’s circumference is smaller than average and the brain is smaller on average as well.

Many of these children beg around the shrine and surrounding cities. Theories in the past as to how these individuals came to be range from artificially-done microcephaly to genetics. Regardless, history and current issues of exploitation of the children and adults in the shrine of Shah Daula remain. Furthermore, addressing the cycle of poverty for these individuals stands as a critical priority.

Artificial or Genetic

One of the main conversations surrounding the “rat children” consists of the nature of primary microcephaly. The belief of artificially inflicting individuals with primary microcephaly has its roots in certain religious traditions connected to the Shah Daula shrine. The process involves putting an iron ring around a child’s head to restrict the growth of the head and brain, shaping their features to resemble rats. This typically forces these children to have to beg for a living.

Genetics also cause the deformities. Medline states that in Northern Pakistan, which has one of the highest rates recorded, primary microcephaly affects one in 10,000 newborns.  The high prevalence correlates to higher rates of intrafamilial marriages, which results in higher rates of genetic disorders.

However, despite debates on the causes, individuals born with primary microcephaly suffer a neurodevelopmental disorder. They bear the medical symptoms for the rest of their lives. Individuals with primary microcephaly typically experience the following in varying degrees: delayed speech and language skills along with delayed motor skills. It is these qualities that make the children and adults suffering from this neurological disorder vulnerable to exploitation. Many of the children and adults of the shrine of Shah Daula do not have anyone to depend upon and are largely left to beg on the streets for money.

Struggling with Exploitation

Origins of the condition aside, many people with primary microcephaly remain in poverty due to exploitation. In an academic study from the Quaid-e-Azam University of Pakistan, one interviewee describes how villagers in certain areas took advantage of disabled individuals for financial gain. “Villagers take these kids from their parents by giving them money and make them bareheaded.” The money the children receive from begging would then go into the villagers’ hands.

Many aspects of the mistreatment surrounding microcephalic children and adults remain illegal under the Pakistan Penal Code. Section 328 in the Pakistan Penal Code relates to the “[e]xposure and abandonment of a child under 12 years by a parent or person having care of it.” This means that mothers, fathers or guardians cannot leave a child anywhere with the intention to abandon the child.

Sections 332 and 335 make disfigurement, whether temporary or permanent, punishable by law. Section 374 separately states, “Whoever unlawfully compels any person to labor against the will of that person, shall be punished with imprisonment [or fines or both].” Nearly every aspect surrounding the treatment of microcephalic individuals in Pakistan can be considered illegal.

Offering Solutions

While there has not been major change concerning the treatment of microcephalic children and adults in Pakistan, new laws supporting the exploited and abandoned are a step in the right direction. In 2016, the parliament of Pakistan passed the Unattended Orphans (Rehabilitation and Welfare) Act, with the aim of “protecting the rights of unattended orphan and abandoned children” as well as “ensuring provision of facilities to them, including housing, education and healthcare.”

The Act also necessitates that the government “take other measures as may be necessary for their rehabilitation and welfare.” Importantly, the Act declares that anyone “who forces any unattended orphan to beg and commit petty crime or pick rags or any act which is injurious to health and dignity of an orphan will be punished with imprisonment of not less than four years, which may be extended to seven years and a fine of up to Rs200,000.”

Medical care for these individuals and providing for their basic needs so that they are not left vulnerable could improve fundamental conditions. The Technology Times suggests an increase in genetic counseling to address the role that genetics and “consanguineous” marriages play in the high rates of primary microcephaly in Pakistan.

An increased focus on helping those afflicted would benefit many in Pakistan. To lead to a point of positive change, the Pakistani government can evaluate from joint medical and policy standpoints to better help some of those most in need.

Grace Ingles
Photo: Unsplash

 

Solutions for BlindnessThere is a strong correlation between blindness and global poverty and people living with both have faced even more challenges than usual amid the COVID-19 pandemic. This is why one Harvard graduate chose to research eye diseases, their causes and how they intersect with global poverty. Lawson Ung focused on solutions for blindness that can also alleviate poverty, such as cataract surgery and spreading awareness of treatment options. In the same vein, the United Nations (U.N.) recently created an initiative that will help people living with blindness and other vision-related challenges.

Harvard Graduate Conducts Research on Blindness and Poverty

After developing an interest in studying ophthalmology, Lawson Ung, a recent Harvard graduate, became inspired to do research on eye disease. While working in a lab, Ung decided to research how eye diseases impact different parts of the world. He learned that 80% of people living with blindness live in low- or middle-income countries and most have limited access to eye doctors. Blindness also increases the likelihood of poverty since eye-related issues can impact people’s abilities to complete daily tasks.

Possible Solutions for Blindness

One solution for blindness that would benefit about half of the people in low-income countries is cataract surgery. Cataract surgery is inexpensive and boosts productivity significantly. Another solution for blindness is spreading awareness that vision loss is not inevitable while informing people about treatment options. This involves reaching out to patients who lack access to eye care services and providing them with the resources they need. However, cultural issues such as acceptance must be a priority in order to make improvements. One study found that only about 22% of blind people living in poverty were willing to receive free cataract surgery.

The UN Creates “Vision for Everyone”

The U.N. recently created “Vision for Everyone,” an initiative that plans to expand access to eye care services in low-income countries. The reason behind this initiative is the high likelihood of more people suffering from vision-related issues in upcoming years. The initiative’s priorities include encouraging governments to improve eye care availability and highlighting the socioeconomic impact of vision loss. The initiative believes that eye care is an important component of poverty alleviation.

In his research, Ung found that many people living with eye disease also face poverty and other environmental barriers. However, cataract surgery and informing people about treatment options are possible solutions for blindness. The U.N.’s “Vision for Everyone” will work to alleviate global poverty by reaching out to millions of people who suffer from blindness and other vision-related issues.

Chloe Moody
Photo: Flickr

disability and poverty in Israel
While the national rate of poverty in Israel sits at roughly 19%, the relative poverty rate of Israelis with disabilities is 24%. Disability and poverty in Israel are not dichotomous.

Cyclical Poverty and Disability

Poverty can cause disability because it frequently leads to polluted environments, unsafe working conditions and lack of access to medical care, proper nutrition, safe drinking water, hygiene supplies and education. Disability also causes poverty. According to the United Nations, discrimination causes many disabled people to experience “limited access to education and employment,” causing disabled people to disproportionately live in poverty.

According to the United Nations, “For every child killed in warfare, three are wounded and acquire a permanent disability.” These children have a 1.7 times greater risk than children without disabilities of becoming victims of violent crime. Furthermore, without proper education and employment opportunities, it is unlikely that disabled children living in poverty will escape it as they grow older.

How Israeli Innovations are Revolutionizing Accessibility

Accessibility is not only a human right, it is also the means by which disabled people achieve equal opportunity. Lack of accessibility often means inequitable treatment for people with disabilities and assistive technologies are a major component of accessibility. Today, several Israeli companies are at the forefront of assistive technology development. A few innovations that have come out of Israel in recent times are:

  • The Sesame Phone: The Sesame Phone is a smartphone that people can operate solely by “hands-free, head-controlled access.” It is ideal for people living with a variety of conditions that cause paralysis.
  • ReWalk: ReWalk is a wearable robotic skeleton that provides “powered hip and knee movement to those with spinal cord injuries (SCI).”
  • EyeMusic: EyeMusic is a Sensory Substitution Device (SSD) that emerged to provide auditory sensory substitution in order to simulate visual stimuli for the blind.
  • Lola: Lola is a multilingual, fully voice-controlled SMS application that voice commands control, catering to a wide variety of people with disabilities.
  • Playwork: Playwork is common physical therapy equipment that received rebranding as various games in order to ease the transition to rehabilitation.

While all these innovations are changing the landscape of accessibility, the innovations are not cheap. Not only do those hoping to acquire innovative accessibility options have to worry about affordability, but these technologies’ creators also have to worry about funding their production. Finding funding for a startup or development project is not an easy task.

Assistive Technological Solutions for the Disabled

Assistive Technological Solutions for the Disabled — “Ezer-Tech” is a collaborative program between the Innovation Authority and the National Insurance Institute that seeks to encourage research and development of assistive technologies. Through Israel’s Innovation Authority, the program supplies grants to Israeli companies and nonprofits who are working to develop assistive technologies. A grant from the program can cover up to 75% of a project. The Innovation Authority also works to establish partnerships between startups and small businesses and international partners. Companies like Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Amazon Web Services to name a few, have benefitted from the funding that the Innovation Authority provides.

The Future

Through grant programs like Assistive Technological Solutions for the Disabled — “Ezer-Tech,” Israeli developers, like those who created the Sesame Phone, ReWalk, EyeMusic, Lola and Playwork, can receive funding for research and development of assistive technologies. Providing assistive technologies to people with disabilities opens up many possibilities in the job market, which in turn, contributes to economic growth and lifts disabled individuals out of poverty.

Access to funding for developing assistive technologies would allow the brutal cycle of disability and poverty in Israel to cease and create ways to prioritize accessibility for citizens with disabilities. Through assistive technologies, many disabled people could achieve full integration into both society and the labor market, allowing a reduction in the correlation between disability and poverty in Israel.

Michelle Schwab
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Disability in Canada
Millions of Canadians live with disabilities. Around 16% of people 15 and older live with a disability, making up more than 4 million people. A correlation exists between poverty and disability in Canada. While about 10% of people without a disability live in poverty or around 3 million people, the poverty rate among those living with a disability is 14%, or around 600,000 people. Poverty rates also vary greatly among different types of disabilities.

What is a Disability?

The above statistics come from a 2006 study of the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS). The survey describes disability as any type of difficulty regarding hearing, seeing, communicating, walking, leaning over, learning or other physical or mental work. Disabilities hinder productivity at work, at school and at home.

Types of Disabilities and Their Poverty Rates

The connection between disability and poverty in Canada runs deep. Furthermore, a person’s particular type of disability correlates directly to their likelihood of living in poverty. Among people with disabilities in general, the poverty rate is around 14%. For people with limited mobility, the rate is a little over 15%. For people with limited ability to communicate, the rate is 24%. People with hearing disabilities have the lowest poverty rate among disabled people at 10%.

The Majority of Canadians Support the Canadian Disability Benefit

The Canadian Disability Benefit, which the Canadian government created in 2021, set up a $12 million fund to benefit Canadians with disabilities over the course of the next three years by changing and reforming programs and benefits already in place. People recognize the link between disability and poverty in Canada. Nearly 90% of people polled either strongly or moderately support the Canadian Disability Benefit.

Disability Without Poverty Movement

Many programs aim to help eliminate poverty among people with disabilities in Canada. One is the Disability without Poverty movement, which is dedicated to ensuring people with disabilities are included in the design of the Canadian Disability Benefit. COVID-19 has greatly hurt people’s ability to seek help, including those with disabilities trying to acquire proper aid and benefits.

The connection between disability and poverty in Canada is a close one. Current aid programs in the works, like the Canadian Disability Benefit, have the design of helping people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. About 60% of Canadians are generally in favor of Canadians with disabilities receiving more aid and benefits, with even stronger support for the Canadian Disability Benefit in particular.

Jake Herbetko
Photo: Flickr

Disability and Poverty in GhanaA sign reading “Property of EEPD Africa” stands prominently in an otherwise empty plot not far from Accra, the capital city of Ghana. The land it sits on, covered in native shrubs and grasses, may one day be home to an innovative new school designed specifically with disabilities in mind. For now, it serves as a reminder of a dream that is yet to come to fruition — reducing the ties between disability and poverty in Ghana.

EEPD Africa

Enlightening and Empowering People with Disabilities in Africa (EEPD Africa), is one of many organizations in Ghana that advocates for and provides assistance to people with disabilities. Started in 2012 by Sefakor Komabu-Pomeyie, a survivor of polio, EEPD Africa works to analyze and support legislation related to disability and accessibility.

Alongside this work, Komabu-Pomeyie has included another project into the EEPD, one that lies close to her heart. The dream of building an accessible school comes from her own experience as a child with a disability. For her, education is crucial. “If I had not been able to be in school, I don’t think you would even know me,” Komabu-Pomeyie states in an interview with The Borgen Project. “I would have been on the streets begging.”

Disability and Poverty in Ghana

Around the world, people with disabilities are among the most vulnerable in their communities. More than 700,000 individuals in Ghana have a disability and households that include a person with a disability experience poverty at more than 10% the rate of other households.

People with disabilities face barriers to education, employment and healthcare. This lack of accessibility means that many are unable to take part in formal society and often have to resort to begging for money and food. “There are a lot of people with disabilities on the street right now,” Komabu-Pomeyie says. “You will see them lined up in traffic, they go from car to car begging.” Poverty is especially hard on children with disabilities, who may not have equal access to schooling. People with disabilities may also be unable to afford the medications needed to manage their conditions, which can have tragic consequences.

Another part of disability and poverty in Ghana is the stigma that is often attached to having a disability. Many families in Ghana keep relatives with disabilities inside their homes, hidden from their communities. This limits access to society for people with disabilities in Ghana. Komabu-Pomeyie recalls how her father saw her disability as a source of shame. This eventually led him to abandon her and her mother. “One day he just woke up and wrote on a paper and put it on the table for my mom: “I can’t live with this thing,” Komabu-Pomeyie reiterates her father’s words.

Disability Advocacy in Ghana

Disability advocacy groups are battling stigma in Ghana, often helmed by people with disabilities. One of the earliest advocacy groups, the Ghana Society for the Blind, was founded in 1951. Other organizations soon followed.

In 1987, the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations was created to facilitate collaboration between different disabled communities. This overarching group currently has seven primary organizations as members, including associations for the blind, deaf, physically disabled and those who have neurological and immunological conditions. These organizations raise awareness about disabilities and create opportunities for people to access medical care, education and employment. These efforts provide a vital lifeline for people experiencing disability and poverty in Ghana.

One of the biggest achievements advocates have seen is the passing of the Disabled Persons Act in 2006, which makes it illegal to discriminate against or exploit a person based on disability. The act also puts government supports in place to improve the accessibility of infrastructure, education and employment.

The enforcement of these protections is now a primary goal for advocacy groups. In spite of the law, in many places, children are still turned away from schools because of a disability. Advocacy organizations still have to step up to ensure the child’s right to an education. “The bigger challenge we have in Ghana is implementation or enforcement,” Komabu-Pomeyie says.

Inclusive Education

Komabu-Pomeyie’s belief in the importance of education in addressing disability and poverty in Ghana comes from her own experience. Her mother, a school librarian, would carry her to school every day where she would learn underneath her table. This devotion to her education inspired Komabu-Pomeyie, who eventually earned her doctorate despite the painful and dehumanizing challenges she faced. “When you see me, beautiful, sitting here today, I went through a whole lot of pain,” Komabu-Pomeyie says. “That pain is what I don’t want any child with disabilities to go through.”

The experience fuels her motivation to build an inclusive and accessible school for children with disabilities. Having worked with the Ghana Education Service, Komabu-Pomeyie has the knowledge and connections necessary. She completed the plans for the school and purchased the land with community support. Funding, however, remains an obstacle. The project is estimated to cost $200,000, but less than $500 has been raised. Despite having land and community support, a lack of finances presents a significant barrier.

Komabu-Pomeyie remains determined to complete the school and help children with disabilities access inclusive education with the accommodations that they require. Disability and poverty in Ghana is a complex issue, but it is one that organizations and individuals are working tirelessly to address.

– Nicole Ronchetti
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

poverty in the Philippines
In the Philippines, mental health problems for those who are disabled have recently skyrocketed. As COVID-19 spread, disabled citizens living in the Philippines suffered from a lack of treatment and heightened health concerns. Furthermore, inequality rose, as there was a lack of healthcare data to help inform and protect the disabled. Disability and poverty in the Philippines are connected. Fortunately, the government is taking steps to help the disabled communities of the Philippines, with the hopes of decreasing poverty and increasing protection.

Poverty and Disability

Approximately 15% of the world’s population experiences a form of disability. In the Philippines, the 2016 National Disability Prevalence Survey (NDPS) revealed that 12% of Filipinos 15 and older suffer from severe disabilities. Furthermore, 47% of people have moderate conditions and 23% have mild disabilities. Compared to the global average, these rates are high. In part, this is due to the fact that developing countries are more likely to have a higher prevalence of disabilities.

COVID-19 had a major impact on the accessibility of healthcare for the disabled. The pandemic placed limits on those who needed sign language interpreters, braille translation and handicap services. Those with medical disabilities needed to be extra cautious as to not endanger themselves by contracting COVID-19. In many cases, poverty in the Philippines is related to disability. The disabled face a higher likelihood of poverty and lower rates of education, health and employment. Those with a secure job may also receive less pay than non-disabled persons despite the funds necessary for living with a disability.

Financial Support

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, financial support is being provided to people with disabilities in the Philippines. In Cebu City, the government provided financial aid in the form of income, supplies and resources in May 2021. Essentials such as wheelchairs, hearing aids and medicine were given to eligible people in need. Each household received P5,000 in monetary assistance, covering January to May of 2021, a period of time where no income was given.

Josh Maglasang is one example of the program’s success. As someone with a disability, he expressed his happiness and relief regarding the recent financial assistance. He acknowledged that monthly payments will help him cover medical costs. Moreover, he was specifically grateful to receive the overdue assistance. Recent exposure to poverty in the Philippines is helping initiatives such as this one pass.

Government Measures

Disability legislation has aided the disabled in the Philippines for many years. The Magna Carta for Disabled Persons Act was passed in 2007, allowing all disabled citizens to receive a minimum 20% discount from stores and services. Dental and medical care, hotels, theater and travel are all included in this coverage.

Furthermore, in regards to education, the disabled have the right to primary, secondary and all higher levels of schooling, with the proper financial assistance granted. This comes in the form of aid packages, scholarships, full coverage and book and supply financing. For those who are physically or mentally unable to work, rights to benefits from the Social Security System (SSS) and Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) are provided.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, disability aid is particularly relevant. Regarding disability and poverty in the Philippines, providing care and support for disabled citizens will make a major difference in the success of the country. Strengthening the Mental Health Act is necessary to improve the quality of life for those who are disabled. Recent improvements in medical support, therapy and pandemic relief mark the beginning of helping those in need.

Selena Soto
Photo: Flickr