The Challenge of Disability
Over 15% of the world’s population suffers from some form of disability. These range from impairment in vision, hearing, and mobility to trouble with memory and communication. However, developing countries are more vulnerable to disabilities due to their limited access to health care, education, water, sanitation, and electricity.
The World Health Organization estimates that one billion people worldwide live with disability or impairment. About 130,000 of these individuals live in Palestine. Of the 5.4 million Palestine refugees registered with UNRWA within Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria, 795,000 of them have a disability. In Occupied Palestine, 31.2% of elderly Palestinian have one or more kinds of disability. Additionally, more males suffer from disabilities than females, and about 20% of individuals with a disability in Palestine are under 18 years old.
Much of the disability in Palestine is a result of limited resources and an increase in violence. Insufficient prenatal and postnatal care, malnutrition, and inadequate medical services all contribute to prolonged disability and impairment. This lack of proper and adequate services is a result of the Israeli blockade and occupation, which prevents Palestinians from accessing goods and services.
The increase in violence also has a direct effect on the number of disabled individuals. There have been recent waves of violence and aggression in Palestine in 2009, 2012, and 2014. As a result, large numbers of Palestinians have been serious injuries. Out of the 11,231 Palestinians affected by these outbursts of violence, 10% experienced injuries that resulted in life-long disabilities.
The Effects of Disability
Disability can dramatically affect the livelihood of afflicted individuals. The education and health care systems are largely operated by UNRWA and USAID related programs through humanitarian assistance and funds. UNRWA has developed Disability Inclusion Programs, but very few of these initiatives focus on individuals with disabilities or increasing access to necessary services. In 2011, 42.2% of Palestinians with disabilities in Gaza and 35.5% in the West Bank never enrolled in school. Further, 27.1% of Palestinians with disabilities dropped out of school and 56.3% were illiterate.
Acquiring access to health care and rehabilitation is very difficult, especially in Gaza due to restricted movement and blockades. The same is true for access to medicine, supplies, and staffing. Having a disability, without the proper resources to acquire treatment, education, or income, can greatly increase the risk of poverty for an individual and their family. If an individual with a disability is already below the poverty line, their chances of escaping poverty are greatly reduced.
Having a disability in Palestine also hinders employment. The poverty rate in Palestine is 25%, and unemployment reached about 29% across the board. Over 90% of individuals with disabilities in Gaza don’t have employment. This is mostly because of the lack of accessible infrastructure, transport, toilets, and assistive devices and services in these workplaces. The presence of disability, especially an insufficiently treated disability, prevents individuals from completing education and finding employment, which lends itself to poverty.
Disability is a challenge in every country. Palestine in particular is not unfamiliar with the hurdles facing individuals with disabilities. From the lack of adequate health care services to the lack of education and employment accessibility, individuals with a disability in Palestine are continuously vulnerable. Employers, educators, governmental organizations. and NGOs should work together to create a much more inclusive environment. There needs to be improvements in infrastructure and providing more resources and accessibility for Palestinians with disabilities.
– Nada Abuasi