Disability and poverty in Pakistan are interconnected. According to the Department for International Development, “poverty is both a cause and consequence of disability.” By exploring the links between disability and poverty in Pakistan, governments and organizations can develop solutions to address the root cause of the issue. Several organizations are working to improve the lives of people with disabilities in Pakistan.
Poverty in Pakistan
The World Bank says Pakistan has seen significantly reduced poverty rates over the past 20 years. In particular, the “expansion of off-farm economic opportunities and the increase in migration and associated remittances allowed [more than] 47 million Pakistanis to escape poverty between 2001 and 2018.”
According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), in 2018, 21.9% of the Pakistani population lived under the poverty line. However, the recent catastrophic and unprecedented floods have affected more than 33 million people in the country and an estimated 9 million more people are at risk of facing poverty due to the impacts of the floods, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) reported in January 2023.
Disability in Pakistan
According to Rooted in Rights, the estimated number of disabled individuals in Pakistan is 30 million. Despite this large population, the stigma surrounding disabilities means people with disabilities face inequalities, marginalization and ostracism.
It is imperative to voice and provide the views of the less fortunate and disabled and this starts by acknowledging that there is a strong connection between disability and poverty. People with disabilities are more likely to fall into poverty due to higher medical costs associated with their disability and a lack of inclusive education opportunities.
Individuals who are impoverished are also at risk of developing disabilities due to inadequate access to health care to address a health issue before it becomes an untreatable disability.
It is also difficult for people with disabilities to find work because of their limitations. According to the United Nations, “in developing countries, 80% to 90% of persons with disabilities of working age are unemployed, whereas in industrialized countries the figure is between 50% and 70%.”
The Work of NOWPDP
Beginning its work in 2008, NOWPDP, a leading disability organization in Pakistan, holds a vision to “ensure each and every person with a disability has equal access to opportunities, awareness about their rights and benefits, and is in fact, an integral part of the society.” Through several programs, the organization aims to empower people with disabilities so that they may live productive and fulfilling lives.
The initiatives aim to promote financial, education and employment inclusion for all people with disabilities, among other efforts. For instance, NOWPDP runs the 100 DAYS 100 LIVES campaign, which provides businesses with the opportunity to play an active role in disability inclusion in Pakistan by providing employment opportunities for 100 individuals with disabilities in Karachi for 100 days per year.
Dissolving the common misconception that the disabled are not as capable as the able-bodied is extremely important in the fight to promote disability inclusion in Pakistan. By acknowledging the connection between disability and poverty in Pakistan, the Pakistani government can look toward establishing comprehensive policies to empower people with disabilities and allow them to live a better quality of life.
– Nimra Nasur Mir