When foreign aid is discussed today, the primary points of discussion are normally water safety, affordable housing and access to basic health needs. These are all important issues that need constant aid and attention. However, there is another important issue that goes seemingly unnoticed in third world countries; disability among the poor. There are 1 billion disabled people on this planet, 80 percent of whom live in developing nations. That is one-sixth of the world’s population that lives with a disability, yet hardly any foreign aid goes towards making the planet a more disability friendly place.
The prevalence of severe and moderate disabilities increases from 2 percent in newborns to 55 percent among those over 80. Furthermore, as infant mortality rates decline there are higher survival rates of babies born with disabilities.
Research conducted through the World Health Organization shows that children with disabilities are three to five times more likely to suffer sexual and physical violence. For example, 14 percent of children in Mozambique between the ages of two and nine are disabled. Many of these children are hidden away by their families since it is a negative stigma in the country to have a disabled child. These disabled children are more vulnerable to discrimination. They have very little interaction with their peers and most of them do not attend schools. Out of the 58 million children worldwide who are missing from schools, almost a third of these children are missing due to disabilities.
These disabled poor cannot be ignored any longer. The Department for International Development in the UK has increased their commitment and focus on the issue of disability aid. DfID has committed to focus on social inclusion for disabled persons as well as bolstering its disability team and enabling them to act quicker in humanitarian emergencies. This could be the beginning of a new focus on disability aid, not as an afterthought, but as a well-planned area of humanitarian efforts.
DflD has committed to publishing a framework on disability aid in November. This framework will outline how they intend to tackle the issue of disability in relation to certain policies and practices. There needs to be a real and lasting focus on disability aid. The disabled are too often overlooked.
- Catherine Ulrich