Editorial
4 months ago

The link between poverty and disability

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Numerous studies have highlighted an ever-widening disparity across the rich and poor, urban and rural divides. The latest demographic surveillance system released by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) presents an altogether different form of disparity involving physical disability between the rich and the poor. The BBS data show, a whopping 34.5 per cent individuals bear signs of disability among the poorest communities, whereas the national average rate of disability is 25.5 per cent. That means the prevalence of disability is disproportionately high among the poor with poverty and disability inextricably linked to each other. Malnutrition, acute maternal malnutrition during pregnancy, and the breastfeeding periods, generally found in poor and low-income families increase the risk of the child's stunted growth. That means inequality, as far as nutritional status is concerned, begins from the womb.

Then again, the poor expectant mothers' reliance on unskilled midwives and the newborn's lack of access to public health services such as immunization may also lead to health conditions that result in disability. Moreover, if a child is born with some form of disability, proper treatment might help cure it, fully or partially. In many cases, poor families due to a lack of awareness and money do not seek proper treatment. They rather go to quacks or traditional healers. It may be regarded as the curse of poverty, the authorities' failure to ensure access to public health for the poor or existing disparity in the distribution of wealth or both. Whatever the case, the fact remains that poverty is rendering a significant number of people physically disabled which in turn erodes their capacity to change their lot, permanently blocking their upward social mobility.

Against such a grim backdrop, the government in particular and society at large cannot shun their responsibility. It should not be forgotten that if physically challenged people were left unaided, they would ultimately become a burden on the government and society. The government and non-government organisations, therefore, must make concerted efforts with a multi-pronged strategy to prevent and treat disability. As part of the government's social safety net or family planning programme, poor expectant mothers can be provided with special cards to ensure their access to healthy food and healthcare facilities. There is also a need for raising social awareness about treatment facilities for children born with birth defects. Early childhood treatment of many birth defects can be cured and prevent many people from suffering a life-long disability.

Last but not least, the government and society have to ensure that physically challenged persons have access to required civic amenities. They should be provided with proper education and skill-training so that they can become independent, free themselves from the curse of dependence upon others, contribute to society, and lead dignified lives. People with disability should be given necessary logistic support to make their work and movement easier. Corporate houses, NGOs, and other social welfare organisations should also extend help to the disabled. Such helps are no  charity, rather a moral, and social obligation. People with physical impairment deserve to be integrated into mainstream society. Many so-called disabled people are simply differently abled and conditions must be created for flourishing their talents and abilities. Programmes must be geared up to help the next generation overcome their parent's/parents' physical constraints. 

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