disabilities

{Photo credit: MSH}Members of government and civil society from Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Philippines work together on priority challenges related to ensuring persons with disabilities in their countries can access the rehabilitation services they need.Photo credit: MSH

A recent increase in political commitment and global cooperation has led many countries to adopt Universal Health Coverage (UHC) strategies—such as establishing packages of essential health services and implementing health financing reforms—in an effort to ensure their citizens have access to basic health care services. Health is increasingly being embraced as the driver of human welfare and sustained economic and social development, but I wonder: If persons with disabilities are not deliberately included in the design of UHC strategies and reforms, will they be left behind? What do we, as a development community, stand to gain if we prioritize disability inclusion?

UHC is for everyone

Persons with disabilities are the world’s largest minority group. One in seven people around the world—15 percent of the world’s population, accounting for more than one billion individuals—live with some form of disability. Yet, they are rarely at the table when health policies and programs are being designed, governed, or evaluated. The majority of these persons live in the developing world. Disability disproportionately affects the key populations who already face development inequities, such as women, the elderly, people living in poverty, indigenous populations, ethnic minorities, and LGBT persons.

 {Photo by the Spanish Cooperation (AECID)}An expert and advocate for persons with disabilities attends a strategy meeting to discuss the new WE DECIDE initiative.Photo by the Spanish Cooperation (AECID)

Violence against women, including forced or coerced sex, is an epidemic that persists all over the world. But women with disabilities, often marginalized and denied their sexual and reproductive health rights, are particularly vulnerable to such abuse.

In June, UNFPA launched WE DECIDE, a global initiative to promote gender equality and social inclusion of young persons with disabilities and advocate for the end of sexual violence.

The FCI Program of MSH worked with UNFPA and a broad range of partners in the field of disabilities to build consensus for the framework of the four-year initiative and to develop communications materials for the initiative, including a video and an infographic that conveys key messages and data on the status of persons with disabilities and gender-based violence.

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