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Why disability inclusion is important for South Sudan

By Lupai Emmanuel

There are a number of reasons why South Sudan needs to consider disability inclusion and give equal opportunities to South Sudanese with disability. Persons with disability have the same rights as all others.

The UN convention on the rights of persons with disabilities [CRPD], and the South Sudan national disability and inclusion policy both state clearly that “persons with disabilities have the same rights as all other persons”. For South Sudan, this means that south Sudanese with disabilities have equal rights to quality education, employment, health, and other social services, and infrastructure modification.

To ensure persons with disability enjoy their rights, services must be provided without discrimination, appropriate modification, adjustments or reasonable accommodation must be put in place. Persons with disability represents an estimated 5.1 per cent of the South Sudanese population.

Although there is no comprehensive data on the numbers of persons with disabilities in South Sudan, credible global estimate based on the World Health Organization and World Bank calculations, suggests that approximately 15 per cent of every population has a disability. This group of people cannot be left behind by the agencies in the humanitarian action.

Disability inclusion is about effective development assistance and humanitarian action. Disability and poverty are linked. People living in poverty are at greater risk of acquiring a disability.  Poverty is associated with lack of access to better health, clean water, and safe living conditions. This leads to health issues and impairments. Persons with disabilities and their families are more likely to be poor, as they often face additional cost, such as paying for more frequent health care, rehabilitation, assistive devices, and costly transportation options.

In the humanitarian situation of South Sudan, persons with disabilities are disproportionately affected. When humanitarian actors do not take persons with disabilities into account, they can be left behind. And may lack appropriate accommodation, employment, lack access to assistive devices and communication tools. They can also be separated from families, communities and the country at large.  May not as well benefit from inclusive education, employment and social services.

For South Sudan government and humanitarian actors to be effective in supporting all south Sudanese, the inequalities between persons with disabilities and persons without disabilities need to be addressed. Persons with disabilities face specific risks and vulnerabilities. They often experience heightened protection risks because of their disability. Girls and women with disabilities endure violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation as often over a longer period of time compared to men with disabilities.

Disability inclusion make economic sense. It is not expensive. For example adopting universal design principles of making new constructions accessible is not costly, children with disabilities may be educated in mainstream schools with minor or low cost adaptation, such as adapted teaching strategies.

Disability inclusion also creates economic benefits. In fact, there is a great loss of GDP (Growth Domestic Product) annually due to the exclusion of persons with disabilities in the employment arena in spite of their qualifications. The inclusion of persons with disabilities in nation building will enhance the speedy growth and development of people of South Sudan.

Remember, everybody on earth is a potential candidate of disability. Let’s benefit everyone by making things inclusive and accessible to all. Today is me tomorrow maybe you.

The writer is a disability rights activist and can be reached through his contact: +211 (0) 928864324

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