Archive for the ‘Disability’ Category

Over two thirds of people in the world who are blind are women announce the development charity Sightsavers International, who was speaking out about this staggering gender bias this World Sight Day (8 October).

Today there are more than 20 million women in the world who are needlessly blind, 90% of whom live in developing countries. This is largely because women are still often last in line for medical care warns the charity. Cultural, social and economic factors often act as a barrier for women when accessing medication, surgery, eye tests and glasses, leaving women more exposed to blindness.

Two of the main causes of blindness amongst women are cataract and trachoma. Surveys of African and Asian countries, where cataract is the biggest cause of blindness, reveal that women account for almost 75% of cataract cases simply because they do not receive surgery at the same rate as men. The statistics for trachoma, a disease that as well as being caused by poverty exacerbates poverty, are similar with women accounting for 85% of the advanced and blinding cases in the developing world.

Sightsavers is warning that trachoma levels could rise in Eastern Africa due to the drought, thwarting efforts by the charity and its partners to bring the disease under control. In Kenya, where regular drug distribution camps have been held throughout 2009, there may be a need for further camps as the disease escalates putting people at greater risk of blindness. Water shortages mean the recommended WHO intervention of keeping hands and faces clean to prevent trachoma spreading becomes near impossible. With tribes becoming more nomadic in the search for grazing pastures, reaching people to provide sight restorative surgery becomes an increasing challenge.

When left untreated trachoma causes immense pain as the eyelids turn inwards, making the eyelashes scratch the eyeball. This can prevent women from working, and can affect their ability to complete household tasks, having a huge impact on their family. Women will often resort to pulling out their eyelashes with tweezers, putting powder on their eyelids, or using tight headscarves to pull up the skin to restrict blinking to eradicate the pain. However none of these solutions provide a long-term cure, yet a simple operation costing �5 could save their sight.

40-year-old Lasoi from Kenya repeatedly suffered from trachoma and it eventually led to complete blindness. Lasoi was finding it a challenge to care for her seven children, so they had to drop out of school to help her. She was also struggling to do her beadwork, an essential income since her family lost their cattle due to drought. It wasn’t until Lasoi was screened by a Sightsavers-supported team visiting her village that she learned her sight could be restored by a 20-minute operation, changing her future.

In response to such a dramatic gender imbalance, Sightsavers, who works in over 30 developing countries to prevent and cure blindness, is supporting its partners in the development of programmes that work with the local cultures. By reaching more women its mission is to reduce global blindness which currently stands at 45 million people.

“It’s unimaginable to many in the developed world that a person could be last in line for medical care simply because they are a woman. But for the developing world this is the stark reality,” observes Dr Caroline Harper, Chief Executive of Sightsavers. “Blindness affects 45 million people worldwide, and unless more is done to address this, the figure is set to double over the next 25 years. That’s why it’s imperative that Sightsavers and other organisations join together to raise awareness of women and blindness during World Sight Day.”

More about why women carry the burden of blindness and what Sightsavers is doing about it can be found at

Sightsavers International:
1. This year’s World Sight Day, now in its 11th year, takes place on 8 October 2009. World Sight Day is an annual event focusing on the problem of global blindness.
2. Sightsavers International is a registered UK charity (Registered charity numbers 207544 and SC038110) that works in more than 30 developing countries to prevent blindness, restore sight and advocate for social inclusion and equal rights for people who are blind and visually impaired.
3. There are 45 million blind people in the world; 75% of all blindness can be prevented or cured.
4. Since 1950, Sightsavers has restored sight to more than 5.65 million people and treated over 100 million more.

Uganda recently joined the rest of the world to celebrate safe motherhood. There are many initiatives in Uganda geared at educating women and men in reproductive health, especially family planning methods.

However, women with disabilities and their partners have been left out of reproductive health programmes, especially family planning and HIV/AIDS. Uganda needs to carry out a health check to fill the gaps and make sure that every section of the population is on board.

We should not underestimate women with disabilities. They have sexual rights and needs and want to be mothers. These are women who are discriminated against either intentionally or unintentionally by their families, communities and society.

This discrimination is evident even in the health sector. Many of them die giving birth in health centres which are not disability friendly and they are exposed to sex-related infections such as HIV/AIDS because they have no power to negotiate for safe sex.

Most women with disabilities are suffering double discrimination. They are disabled and also ignorant of their rights and needs. For example, most of them think it is a favour from a man to have sex.

However, women with disabilities are open to new information, seek knowledge and speak to some people on their needs. The Government should provide them with training and sensitisation programmes on family planning and other health methods.

This will enable women with disabilities make informed decisions. Their partners need to be included in the sensitisation and training programmes on reproductive health.

Health workers should also receive training on the needs of women with disabilities. This will help them have safe birth and healthy children. There are many organisations for disabled people in Uganda. These should be the starting point when seeking to reach women with disabilities.

As we plan for safe motherhood for all mothers in Uganda, we should not forget women with disabilities and their partners. They are part of the Millennium Development Goals which concern children and maternal health.

The writer is the Information officer for The National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU)

Article 25.1 of the Universal Declaration, to which Ghana is signatory states, “Everyone has a right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability ”

Accordingly, it is the aim of objective 7 of Ghana’s Disability Policy to ensure access of Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) to effective health care and adequate medical rehabilitation service.

But the situation currently on the ground is said to be at variance with these declarations and objectives, according to some 20 women with disabilities who participated in a seminar on “rights to healthcare for women with disabilities.”

The women, drawn from the various associations under the Ghana Federation of the Disabled (GFD), took part in the seminar on Tuesday in Accra. It was organized by the federation with support from the Alliance for Reproductive Health Rights (ARHR).

The participants established, for example, that persons with hearing impairment often do not receive the desired medical attention due to misinterpretation of sign language by doctors. They identified, therefore, the need for government to train more sign language interpreters to be deployed to various health facilities to assist doctors in this regard.

Also, persons with physical disabilities always have difficulty climbing onto medical examination beds because these facilities are too high. In addition, Miss Ruth Odoi of the Ghana Society for the Physically Disabled (GSPD) complained that calipers were too expensive and many of them could not afford.

Ms Nana Yaa Agyeman of Sharecare Ghana lamented that the special condition of people with autoimmune diseases or diseases of the central nervous system had not been factored into the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).

Autoimmune diseases arise from an overactive immune response of the body against substances and tissues normally present in the body. In other words, the body attacks its own cells. There are over 40 human diseases classified as either definite or probable autoimmune diseases and almost all of them appear without warning or apparent cause. There is as yet no cure for autoimmune diseases, but the symptoms are largely manageable with drugs.

According to Ms Agyeman, the condition of people with this disease is so peculiar that it requires special attention under the NHIS.

She explained that for autoimmune conditions, every breakdown in health worsens the state of disability. The condition, therefore, requires regular medical attention; generally, once every month and medical care is very expensive.

At the end of the day, the women identified the need for government to deal with the limited access to healthcare under the NHIS. They also called for the free registration of unemployed PWDs under the NHIS.

Furthermore, they called on government to address the problem of inadequate health facilities and asked that those facilities be made disability-friendly.

The women also resolved to as often as possible protect themselves against infectious disease like sexually transmitted infections through the use of condoms. They also saw the need to go for regular checkups, breast screening and voluntary HIV/AIDS testing.

Educating the women on the health component of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Mr Sidua Hor, ARHR, said PWDs have the power to change their health conditions by alerting government and demanding their right to health from government.

Mr Charles Appiagyei, Senior Programme Officer, Action on Disability and Development (ADD), wondered whether Ghana was pursuing healthcare delivery in line with the overall goal of the Ghana Growth and Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) II, which is to ensure that every Ghanaian has access to good and quality healthcare.

Referring to the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s definition of health, Mr. Appiagyei said “Health is not just the absence of disease but the state of total wellbeing of the person.” Thus, it comprises a person’s physical, social, emotional and economic well-being.