Magazine article The Nation's Health

WHO Report: Disabilities Affect 1 Billion People Worldwide

Magazine article The Nation's Health

WHO Report: Disabilities Affect 1 Billion People Worldwide

Article excerpt

ONE BILLION people around the world live with some form of disability, according to the first global estimates in 40 years, and a fifth of those face difficulties such as lack of accessibility, discrimination and insufficient health care.

Released in June by the World Health Organization and the World Bank, the global disabilities report also found 80 percent of people with disabilities live in developing countries, where problems accessing regular health care are pronounced. The report also found few countries have adequate mechanisms in place to meet the needs of people with disabilities.

"Disability is part of the human condition," said WHO Director-general Margaret Chan, MD, MPH. "Almost every one of us will be permanently or temporarily disabled at some point in life. We must do more to break the barriers which segregate people with disabilities, in many cases forcing them to the margins of society."

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Advocacy groups praised the release of the report as an important step in recognizing how many people live with disabilities and some of the problems they regularly face.

"Handicap International is thrilled, and we are extremely pleased and recognizant of the work that WHO and the World Bank have done to produce this report," Susan Girois, MD, MPH, director of Handicap International's Technical Resources Division, told The Nation's Health.

Yet two shortcomings, Girois said, were that the report did not devote much space to "glaring disparities" between developed and developing countries and the needs of people with disabilities when emergencies arise.

"Disparities, in the global picture, should not be acceptable to the global community," Girois said from Handicap International's headquarters in Lyon, France. …

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