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Dec 03
Celebrating International Day of Persons with Disabilities

By: Lunga Memela (Communications Engagement Lead)

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Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) and what better way to acknowledge this than to shine the spotlight on South Africa's stellar dancing sensation, Musa Motha. He is living proof that persons with disabilities are nothing short of amazing! His story was well captured by this CNN Style article, and it ushers us into celebrating persons and disabilities and commemorating IDPD befittingly. "After losing his leg, South Africa's Musa Motha is inspiring with every move," the article highlights.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says IDPD is about promoting the rights and well-being of persons with disabilities at every level of society and development, and to raise awareness of the situation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of political, social, economic, and cultural life. WHO joins the United Nations in observing this day each year, reinforcing the importance of securing the rights of people with disabilities, so they can participate fully, equally and effectively in society with others, and face no barriers in any aspects of their lives.

According to WHO, "More than 1 billion people experience disability, and this figure is predicted to rise, due in part to population ageing and an increase in the prevalence of noncommunicable diseases.  Despite this, few countries have adequate mechanisms in place to respond fully to the health priorities and requirements of persons with disabilities".

The growing need to commemorate highlights these key messages:

  • Many of us will experience disability in our lifetime, particularly as we grow older.
  • WHO commits to supporting countries to realise a world where health systems are inclusive and persons with disabilities can attain their highest possible standard of health.
  • COVID-19 has resulted in further disadvantage and increased vulnerability for many persons with disabilities due to barriers in the health and social sectors, including discriminatory attitudes and inaccessible infrastructure.
  • Building back better requires persons with disabilities to be central to health sector decision making, to ensure barriers are addressed in an inclusive and timely way.
  • Disability inclusion in the health sector is not only the right thing to do, but also the smart thing to do, as it directly contributes to the achievement of broader global and national health priorities.


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Also lobbying for persons with disabilities are contributors to the Health Systems Trust's South African Health Review 2020 (SAHR) which was released under the theme: Access to health care for persons with disabilities in South Africa.

The Chairperson of HST's Board of Trustees, Dr Dumani Kula said, "Chapters in the Review provide 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.

"These challenges include human resource constraints, fragmented and under-resourced rehabilitation services, lack of appropriate assistive devices, and the adoption of an overwhelmingly medicalised approach to disability, all of which translate to poor availability, affordability and access to health services for persons living with disabilities. This results in many persons with disabilities being denied the opportunity to reach their full potential," he continued.

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The United Nations does have a Disability Inclusion Strategy in place, which provides the foundation for sustainable and transformative progress on disability inclusion through all pillars of the work of the UN. Through the Strategy, the organisations of the UN system reaffirm that the full and complete realisation of the human rights of all persons with disabilities is an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

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Also read the Secretary-General's progress report on the implementation of the Strategy. 


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