Thursday, August 20, 2015

Disability and Poverty- a complex relationship...


When we think about Disability in Developing countries we tend to focused on the issues that connect with it. My voluntary experience in Ghana has led me to consider the fact that, there is a link between disability and poverty.

Poverty and disability can be complex and multi-directional throughout the world. Disability is often seen as being the result of natural-causes, beyond one’s control, especially those being born cognitively disabled or born with a chronic health condition. One considers the phenomenons behind disability – yet can’t question or ask why?

As part of my project in Ghana, I was able to work alongside the only school in the northern region of Ghana for children with intellectual disabilities. I have been delighted by the the warm welcome I have received from the children every time I have visited.  The children were so happy; this is the one memory that significantly stood out throughout my experience. However, when working with the children, their appearance is striking. Many of them visibly show signs of a lack of attention given to them and a low standard of living. With such overwhelming numbers of disabled children living in poverty, one cannot help but wonder whether one ‘CAUSES’ the other.

My experience so far in Ghana has questioned my thinking about people with disabilities living in poverty. I initially anticipated that most people with a disability would be poor, as a form of punishment in society, where they have been socially excluded by the community they find themselves. The majority of people with disabilities find their situation affects them greatly as they are often regarded as unproductive and incapable of contributing in a positive way to society, particularly those living with an intellectual disability. According to the Ghana federation of the disabled, the 2010 population and Housing Census put the population of severely disabled persons at 3% (737,743). This means that the population of Persons with Disability in Ghana could be between 15 and 20%. An estimated 70% of persons with disability live in rural areas and encounter a lot of challenges such as participation in decision making, general access to information, resources and opportunities.  Once again highlighting the inter-action between disability and poverty. 

Many people in developing countries tend to view disability as ‘SUPERSTITIOUS’ assuming that the disability has been caused by a curse from the gods or witchcraft. As a result of this stigma, disabled people are among the most disadvantaged people in the world and are over-represented among the poorest of the poor in most developing country.

Throughout my findings I have learnt that people with disability suffer huge stigmatisation in society. For example, Formal education for most people with disabilities in Ghana is difficult, mainly because most of them are intimidated by their disability. Also it has been found that, children with disabilities are more likely to die young, or be neglected, malnourished and poor. The rate of discrimination is high as some families unfortunately also discriminate against members with disability. Breaking out of the vicious cycle of poverty and disability becomes more and more difficult.

…..If ONLY a world where people with disability can grow up healthy protected from harm and educated to reach their full potential no matter what types of disabilities they have!!.....................

In developing countries, there are rarely strong disability movements actively working to improve the living conditions for people living with disabilities. Individuals with disabilities are not only more likely to be poor, but they are subject to prejudice, social isolation, stigmatisation and discrimination drives them more deeply into poverty.

There are several conventions and laws that have been established by many international organizations and countries, to protect the rights of the disabled. For Example, in Ghana; Voice of Developing Communities [VODEC] a research based institute are working together with others NGOs organisation to help eliminate the discrimination against people with disabilities faced. However, in spite of all these conventions and laws people with disability continue to battle with the situation they face with in their everyday life protect their rights with respect. Poverty and disability reinforce each other, contributing to increased vulnerability and exclusion. Eradicating world poverty is unlikely to be achieved unless the rights and needs of people with disabilities are taken into account.

…….. ‘Disability [is] a Human Rights issue. So long as people with disabilities are denied the opportunity to participate fully in society, no one can claim that the objectives of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have been achieved’………..United Nations….

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