By: Lunga Memela (HST Communications Engagement Lead)
The theme for this year's National Disability Rights Awareness Month, commemorated from 3 November until the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December, is "Empowering Persons with Disabilities through resourceful, sustainable and safe environments."
Prioritising disability rights and promoting disability awareness has always been high on the Health Systems Trust (HST) agenda. The 23rd annual South African Health Review (SAHR) – one of HST's flagship publications – was themed: Access to health care for persons with disabilities in South Africa. The publication provided critical insight into barriers and facilitators, good practices, and successful service-delivery models for disability inclusion and rehabilitation. The journal's chapters furnished the reader with information on the multitude of challenges associated with providing a seamless continuum of appropriate and adequate care for persons with disabilities in the public health sector.
Similarly, the 2021 special edition of the SAHR titled Health sector responses to COVID-19, what have we learnt? dedicated a chapter to disability where the authors documented experiences of vulnerability of people with disabilities during COVID-19 in South Africa. They felt that people with disabilities are often left behind in emergencies, and that this was a risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"With approximately 3.8 million people living with disabilities in South Africa, it is not clear how they were considered during the initial and ongoing stages of strict lockdown," said the authors. "Emerging lessons reveal that the right to health of people with disabilities should be protected during the COVID-19 pandemic and similar emergencies. Additional efforts are needed to ensure that pandemic responses are disability inclusive from the planning stage."
Continued commitment from HST
HST joins the rest of the world in commemorating Disability Rights Awareness Month 2022. As health leaders advise, what people need to remember is that disability may be present from birth, or occur during a person's lifetime – that is to say, every person is susceptible to becoming disabled at any given point in their life. We need to always spare a thought for persons with disability, their families and caregivers.
The SAHR Managing Editor Ashnie Padarath reminded people that not all disabilities are visible. "There are two immediate challenges facing the health sector. The first is to move from [an] overwhelmingly medicalised and individualised approach to disability focused on fixing impairments, to a rehabilitation service-delivery model located at community level. The second challenge is ensuring that persons with disabilities are consulted, included and considered in the ongoing rollout of NHI," she said.
For more information on disability in South Africa, please visit: https://disabilityconnect.co.za/
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