Category Published Date
Democracy 3 December 2016

In Pakistan, Persons with Disabilities still have difficulty exercising their civil and political rights, attending quality schools, and nding gainful employment, among other activities. As such, they face exclusion as productive members of the society, leading to economic losses worth $11.9 billion to $15.4 billion, or 4.9% to 6.3% of Pakistan’s GDP, reveals data shared by HelpAge Pakistan on the occasion of International Day of Persons With Disabilities. Surveys conducted by non-governmental organizations including by World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that over 15 per cent of people in the general population in Pakistan have some form of disability. Ageing is also associated with a higher probability of living with a disability. Half of the population of older people in Pakistan, which is one of the 15 countries with over a 10 million population of older people, suffers from moderate to severe disability. The Ageing and Disability Task Force (ADTF), which is a network of 11 national and international organizations in Pakistan advocating for the rights of Persons with Disabilities and older people since 2010, has urged relevant government ministries and departments, and national and international humanitarian organizations to make their interventions inclusive of older people and Persons with Disabilities. “The government of Pakistan, especially the National Disaster Management Authority, has taken a few positive steps towards inclusive humanitarian response and disaster risk reduction by formulating policy guidelines on vulnerable groups. ADTF would urge all organizations working in humanitarian response and disaster risk reduction to implement these national guidelines on vulnerable groups in compliance with Article 11 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (UNCRPD),” an ADTF official stated. While the government of Pakistan is currently supporting people from FATA return to their homes, it is a human right imperative for the government and non-government humanitarian organizations to ensure a dignified return and resettlement for Persons with Disabilities. ADTF has also called upon relevant government authorities to ensure that what is promised is delivered in an inclusive way to address the challenges of Persons with Disabilities and ageing population. Pakistan did make early attempts (in the 1980s) aimed at promoting inclusion of Persons with Disabilities through the introduction of education and employment policies, setting up special schools for persons with disabilities, and mandating businesses to employ persons with disabilities through a quota-based system and levies. Although these were celebrated achievements, they proved to be ineffective as is reflected in the continued exclusion of Persons With Disabilities in practically every sphere of life. They face barriers to participation in society, such as access to healthcare facilities, education, information and communication, transportation services, employment opportunities as well as development and humanitarian programmes and funds. Persons with Disabilities also face enhanced risk to the effects of climate change, such as natural disasters and food insecurity; they are also more vulnerable in situations of conflict. In the past decade, Pakistan unfortunately has continuously faced both natural and complex humanitarian situations. Globally, and in Pakistan, policy approaches to disability have largely focused on rehabilitation, welfare handouts and related charity. This has been changing since UNCRPD, which became operational in 2008. The UNCRPD sets out the rights of persons of all ages with disabilities. Article 11 of UNCRPD specifically asks for the protection of Persons with Disabilities in situations of natural and man-made disasters. The inclusion of disability in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) mainly goals 4, 10 and 17, is a cause for hope for People with Disabilities and ageing population. The government of Pakistan too is committed to achieving the SDGs; however, it needs to pay specific attention to protecting the rights of Persons With Disabilities. More than 1 billion people around the world are living with some form of disability; this number constitutes 15 to 20% of the world’s total population. Eighty percent of these people live in developing countries and face a greater risk of living in poverty and exclusion. Worldwide, more than 46% people aged 60 years and over live with visible or invisible disabilities. More than 250 million older people experience moderate to severe disability.

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