MONTGOMERY, Kentucky — Disabilities often have a bad reputation among modern society. Having a disability, whether physical or mental, often brings the stigma that one cannot provide for themselves or lead a normal life.
Unfortunately, for most individuals with disabilities in poverty-afflicted areas, that stigma is even more difficult to overcome without the help of a stable government or the necessary medical aid. They cannot work for endless hours in an attempt to make ends meet because their disability hinders them at best, or makes them a liability for others at worse.
The United Nations Enable (UNE) found that “15 percent of the world’s population (1 billion people) live with disabilities,” which makes them the most prominent minority group in the world. The United Nations Enable also found that out of that 1 billion people with disabilities, at least 80% live in rural areas of developing nations.
It is estimated that in some poverty-stricken countries, the percentage of people with disabilities is as high as 20%. With such high percentages affecting already struggling nations and families, it makes maintaining a life and rising out of poverty very difficult. The organization, Disabled World, predicts that the number of impoverished individuals living with disabilities in underdeveloped countries will steadily increase if nothing is done to address low access to medical care and assistance.
In most of these countries, medical assistance is scarce or nonexistent, leading to disabilities that often worsen with time, which contribute to greater strain upon impoverished states. Emergency care is typically provided by traveling or volunteer medic stations, so the appropriate amount of time needed to provide treatment for disabled people is rarely available.
Women, in contrast to men, face even more limited access to health care, education and employment. These disadvantages put extra stress on making ends meet—along with having a disability.
Women typically assume the role of caretakers to child with disabilities. With extensive hindrances placed upon them, trying to work while living in poverty and caring for a child with disabilities intensifies the hardships experienced by these women.
Furthermore, United Nations Enable reported that women and children, girls especially, with disabilities are much more likely to be victims of abuse. From a 2004 survey, UNE concluded that “virtually all women and girls with disabilities were beaten at home, [and]25 percent with intellectual disabilities had been raped.”
Physical abuse, sexual assault and rape and forced sterilization not only violate these individuals’ human rights, they also worsen the mental state of victims.
Preventing violence and promoting healthy lifestyle options are realistic goals that can decrease the number of individuals with disabilities living in developing countries. By offering better hygiene, adequate educational opportunities and necessary food, much of the stress experience by individuals with disabilities and their families would be minimized.
Making strides to offer more quality medical assistance would allow for long-term benefits rather than quick fixes. With proper medical care, disabilities would not turn into handicaps at the rates we are seeing today and would allow more opportunities to both people with disabilities and their families, thus giving way to better lives and less poverty.
– Katherine Wyant
Sources: Disabled World, The United Nations, The United Nations Enable, Factsheet on Persons with Disabilities
Photo: Beyond Disability