The disabled in Afghanistan have contributions to make but they need more support to help them integrate into society. This was the call from disabled groups on Thursday as the country observed the International Day of Disabled Persons.
According to the Afghan Ministry of Martyrs and Disabled the country has more than 1 million people living with various levels of disability - the result of decades of devastating conflict and the lack of a health infrastructure. This is one of the highest percentages anywhere in the world.
“We should understand that the war was responsible for only 25 percent of all disabled Afghans, the rest have been disabled as a result of poverty, illiteracy and cultural practices,” Parwin Azimi, an adviser to the ministry, told IRIN.
“Despite tens of international aid agencies for the disabled and an internationally supported government, we continue to be the most isolated and deprived people in this society,” Haji Rahim, head of the Disabled Association of Afghanistan, told IRIN as he led nearly 500 disabled people in a procession through the capital, Kabul.
In a new report released the same day, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) called for joint efforts to support the integration of disabled Afghans
Discrimination affects most disabled people, according to the report. This takes the form of verbal and physical abuse, lack of access to education and healthcare, lack of social opportunities and barriers to employment.
“Despite the laudable efforts of a few organisations, no proper results can be expected as long as disability awareness and advocacy are not raised and the reintegration is not implemented by law,” Alberto Cairo, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) orthopaedic projects in Afghanistan, told IRIN.
Help is inadequate, activists say. While there is a special ministry with a mandate to help disabled people, the government is also paying 300 afghanis (about US $7) disability pension monthly.
“We urge the government to raise our pension, assign a disabled minister in the new cabinet and provide us with the chances of employment in government departments,” said Rahim.