Handicap International welcomes the publication of the first ever reference document on the state of disability in the world and would like to highlight the scale and depth of the work accomplished.
Estimating the number of people with disabilities worldwide at one billion, or 15% of the world’s population, the report from the WHO and World Bank confirms that disability is a major issue on a global scale. The causes of disability are evolving, mainly due to longer life expectancy, a higher prevalence of chronic illnesses, and also an increase in armed violence and natural disasters.
Although the report’s findings and recommendations reflect Handicap International’s observations in numerous contexts on the ground, the organisation would like to emphasize that the global nature of the report should not mask the deep inequality in resources (economic, legal, skills) between high and low income countries. The organisation insists on the role of and the need for solidarity, both amongst communities and at national and international levels, so that the situation of people with disabilities in low and middle income countries can improve.
Handicap International is also calling for particular vigilance on the part of all stakeholders. The report’s emphasis on the access of people with disabilities to mainstream services, though positive in itself, should not obscure the need for specific services and compensatory mechanisms to allow the effective progression of equal opportunities.
Finally, Handicap International regrets that the report is particularly silent on the specific issue of the needs of people with disabilities in humanitarian emergencies and crisis situations, and the insufficient manner in which these needs are taken into account by stakeholders and funders. Recent major emergencies in Haiti, Pakistan and Ivory Coast have shown the vital importance, at the heart of emergency aid, of assistance dedicated to this significant minority, which is particularly vulnerable to the impact of a crisis.