Disabled left behind

A high-level workshop which ends today, had probed the difficulties of living with a disability in Namibia.

31 May 2018 | Local News

With up to 15% of Namibians living with disabilities, many of them struggle to find jobs, get a quality education, access public health services and fully integrate into society.

A three-day workshop attended by more than 100 representatives of the government, the United Nations, civil society, academia and organisations of persons with disabilities was held in Windhoek this week to address the multiple barriers and obstacles affecting the lives of people with disabilities.

“People with disabilities continue to be deprived the right to a quality education, including to technical and vocational education and training, because of lack of assistive technology and disability-friendly teaching and learning approaches,” a press statement issued by the organisers of the workshop read.

Vice-president Nangolo Mbumba, who was represented by Agnes Tjongarero of the youth ministry, stated at the workshop's opening that “persons with disabilities deserve the same chance to make the most of their lives and to make their voices heard as everyone else in our country”.

He said the workshop was a welcome opportunity for the government and its partners to remove the barriers to health, education, economic development and social interaction in the lives of persons with disabilities and to ensure that platforms are put in place to integrate them fully into society.

The statement said although Namibia has demonstrated some best practices in terms of policy and other efforts to improve the lives of persons with disability, gaps remain.

According to the 2016 demographic survey, more than 108 000 Namibians, or 5% of the population, have disabilities.

Based on estimates by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Bank, the actual number may be as high as 15% though.

It is estimated that 66% of the disabled population live in remote rural areas, where it is harder to access public services.

Although significant progress has been made in Namibia to ensure that young children attend early childhood development (ECD) programmes, it is reported that, according to 2011 statistics, around 87% of children with disabilities under the age of four have never attended ECD programmes

Of the total of 132 544 children who receive social grants, 5 545 are children with disabilities below the age of 18 years.

Compared to the national unemployment rate of 28%, the joblessness rate for adults with disabilities is, at 39%, a major concern.

The organisers of the workshop noted that over 48 000 people were inactive in the labour force as a result of disability, totalling roughly 9% of the total inactive population.

“These gaps reflect the level of discrimination, which stems from multiple sources, including ignorance, prejudice and cultural norms, which in turn lead to stigma and entrenched social exclusion,” the statement read.

Another major obstacle for persons with disabilities to participate actively and freely in society is a lack of access to information and communication, as well as a lack of training for teachers and other service providers.

UN resident coordinator Rachel Odede said the changing global development landscape offers a significant opportunity for mainstreaming disability and propelling the progressive removal of barriers and obstacles faced by persons with disability.

She emphasised the importance of the active involvement of persons with disabilities in order to “create a truly inclusive society that leaves no person behind … and this starts with ensuring that social, cultural and economic barriers are removed.”

JANA-MARI SMITH

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