by Pauline Andrews
NEPAL Is emerging from many years or agitation, political upheaval and change from a feudal monarchy to a republic. Social services reaching the poorest disabled people Nepalese have suffered greatly in this time combined with its remoteness, mountains and inaccessible country. It is estimated , that at least 10% of the population have disabilities and require assessment and rehabilitation. Causes of disability include: CP, polio, war injuries, leprosy, accidents, hearing speech and blindness, burns, birth deformities , surgical and medical errors and mental health issues .
From what we have been told by the people we have worked with and met, observed and from the government policies we have read there are significant barriers and human rights issues for people with disability in Nepal. There is a stigma attached to being disabled, people are seen as lesser citizens, the language use in government policy further alienates people eg- acronym PWD = People with Disability, feeble minded, and handicapped to name a few. Teachers in the schools where we took classes used words such as ‘hate and dislike’ when they asked students why Nepal had these attitudes to disabled people. It was explained to us that woman with disability rarely marry, in fact they are shunned by men in general. Children with disabilities are hidden away in homes, rarely seen in the community and do not have access to education .
Human rights of disabled people in Nepal is significant issue. With a least 10% of the population having been identified as disabled, and these are only the cases that have been ‘registered’ Nepal has significant issues to address in regard to meeting the needs of their disabled citizens and this is not without significant challenges. With political instability: inability to form a government and corruption, numerous equally important areas of need eg developing infrastructure, promoting health and access to education (with 60% illiteracy), social attitudes and the reliance upon the family structure to support these people, combined with the influx of overseas aid and volunteers coming to Nepal , government funding going into this area is limited and sadly a lower priority .
What we have observed it that there is a lack of awareness of the Disabled policy in Nepal in Government INGO’s/ NGO’s and independent foreigners, there is little evidence of a co-ordinated approach, strategic or business plan’s, and the approach to rehabilitation is the ‘whatever it takes approach’ which works well for individuals but does not make for durable sustainable long term change for disabled people collectively .