On December 3rd, International Medical Corps is marking International Day of Persons with Disabilities as part of the worldwide effort to promote a better understanding of disability issues.
According to the U.N., over one billion people, or approximately 15 percent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability. The term “persons with disabilities” applies to all those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments. In developing countries, they often suffer high rates of unemployment and lack access to adequate education and health care, making the impact of living with a disability that much greater.
According to the U.N.: “Evidence and experience shows that when barriers to their inclusion are removed and persons with disabilities are empowered to participate fully in societal life, their entire community benefits. Barriers faced by persons with disabilities are, therefore, a detriment to society as a whole, and accessibility is necessary to achieve progress and development for all.”
True to our mission, International Medical Corps provides critical health care services to vulnerable populations worldwide. It is often through our clinics and mental health programs, operating amid – as well as in the aftermath of – conflict and natural disaster, that persons with disabilities first receive care. And they continue to receive care over the long-term from our teams of doctors, nurses and community health workers.
In Libya for instance, because many people suffered injuries during the war, International Medical Corps has prioritized rehabilitation services and support for the disabled. We provide equipment and critical services for disabled Libyans through rehabilitation centers across the country and work to train local health workers including physiotherapists. In addition to the war-wounded, we also reach other disabled Libyans including children like Mohamed who has cerebral palsy. His story here.
In all of our programs, International Medical Corps aims to provide accessible and appropriate health care for all members of society, including the disabled. In Haiti, International Medical Corps expanded water, sanitation and hygiene activities for vulnerable communities who did not have access to clean water or safe sanitation following the devastating earthquake. We constructed more than 150 latrines – including disability-friendly latrines. We did the same in the Dolo Ado refugee complex in Ethiopia where we provide critical nutrition, sanitation and hygiene programs, including constructing latrines, showers and hand washing facilities. Our local team recognized the unique circumstances that Kunse, a disabled 20-year-old living in the camps faced, and constructed an adapted latrine and hand washing facility just for her. See her story here.
In addition to physical disabilities, International Medical Corps also prioritizes mental health care. For much of the world, primary health care, let alone health care, is a luxury. But without it, so many with mental disabilities go undiagnosed and misunderstood, which often leads to painful stigma and isolation. That is why International Medical Corps provides direct mental health care to people in need, and also trains families and communities about mental disabilities so that they are better understood and more widely accepted. In Afghanistan, International Medical Corps, in conjunction with the European Commission, broke ground on construction that will strengthen operations of the local Mental Health Hospital. We have completed improvements to the hospital’s training center and library, which have facilitated training on mental health and reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness.