Situation of disabled people in Syria

On December 3rd, 2013, Syria and all world countries will mark the 21st anniversary of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPWD) that aim to promote an understanding of people with disability, who make up 15% of world's population, and muster up support for their dignity, rights and well-being.

Several activities are to be held around the world and special reports will be released on this occasion.

The Syria times e-newspaper has seized this opportunity to open the file of disability in Syria and to elucidate how the ongoing crisis negatively affected  the situation of people with disability.

"Since the 1970s, the Department of Persons with Disability (PWD) was established at the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry to cater services to people with disability," the Department's Director Ahmad Efnekher said.

Services

He made it clear that the department plays the role of mediator between the PWDs and the public establishments to ensure jobs, loans and investment license to the PWDs.

"Besides, the department guides persons with disabilities to the social care institutes and intercedes with the Non-Governmental Organizations to meet some of the requirements of the people with disabilities, such as wheelchairs, headphones, medicines…etc," Efnekher added.

National plan

In 2008, the cabinet approved a national plan, drawn up by the Syrian Organization for the Disabled "AAMAL", to rehabilitate the PWDs,

The approval was preceded by a symposium held on December 3rd in 2007 in Damascus in the presence of Mrs. Asmaa al-Assad to discuss the plan. 

On December 11th 2010, a national Forum on disability was held at Omayyad Palace where eight topics - policies, strategies, integrating disabled students, services, initiatives, Law, supportive environment, media, and disability and Job- were debated.

The participants in the forum suggested establishing a national commission for disability affairs to activate the national plan. But, the forum's recommendations have not been implemented.

It was said then that the PWDs  make up 10% of the Syria's population.

Statistics

Until December 31st ,2012, the number of the PWDs registered in 59 social care institutes for blindness, deaf, cerebral palsy, physical and intellectual disabilities reached up to 4638- mostly male- according to  statistics gleaned from the Social Affairs Ministry.

The statistic shows that 27 social care institutes are governmental and 32 ones are non-governmental and the number of the PWDs in the governmental institutes is 3139 cases.

All these numbers  changed over the past year due to the spread of acts of vandalism and terrorism in the country.

Obstacles

Efnekher told us that many institutes- especially in northern Aleppo province- have been damaged and several others have been turned into shelters for displaced citizens, who fled their homes in flashpoint areas.

The institutes have been used as shelters since summer vacation.

 He added that the ministry, in coordination with the Relief Committee, is working  to relocate the displaced citizens to other shelters in order to re-open the institutes for the PWDs.

"This year, the institutes recorded one of the lowest ever turnout for several reasons related to the current circumstances in the country. One of which is the difficulty of ensuring buses to pick up the people with disability to the institutes," Efnekher said. 

Plans

The ministry is planning to set up new social care institutions in the safe areas in the provinces of Homs, Sweida and Quneitra and urges the NGOs to open new branches for special education services.

It, in addition, will reactivate the Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) and launch a social awareness campaign to confront the new situation of disability in Syria.  

"The current circumstances caused  disabilities that necessitate rehabilitation at the social and psychological level," the director of the PWD's Department said.

Asked about the Central Council of the PWDs, which was established under the 2004 Law No.34, Efnekher clarified that a new body called 'Higher Disability Committee" will be formed to replace the council after the issuance of the new law.

"The ministry is working to develop some legislations and laws of the PWDs according to a new vision," Efnekher asserted, adding that the cooperation between the ministry on the one hand and the regional and international organizations on the other regarding the disability issue, comes within the framework of development programs.

Translating commitments into action is what is needed to ensure accessibility to persons with disability in all aspects of society and development all over the world. 

A fact of everyday life

Stigma, discrimination, and exclusion remain  facts of everyday life for too many persons with disability all over the world, despite all major steps taken to implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (issued in 2006), the UN Sectary General Ban Ki-moon said on September 9th 2013: "

In conclusion, we echo what the WHO Director General, Margaret Chan said: "Disability is part of human condition...Almost every one of us will be permanently or temporarily disabled at some point in life... Even in high-income countries, up to 40% of people with disabilities do not have access to the services they need."

Statistics on disabled people registered at Social Affairs Ministry till December, 31, 2012

 

 

Total number

 

Gender

 

Number

 

Classification

Social Care Institutes for PWDs

female

male

514

194

320

2

Government

Blindness

278

 

108

170

10

Non-Government

792

302

490

12

Total

785

380

405

10

Government

 

Intellectual disability

 

671

150

521

11

Non-Government

1456

530

926

21

 

Total

 

 

345

 

155

 

190

 

3

 

Government

Cerebral Palsy

55

20

35

1

Non-Government

400

175

225

4

Total

1255

 

550

 

705

 

8

 

Government

 

 

Deaf

 

420

170

250

9

Non-Government

1675

720

955

17

Total

240

90

150

4

Government

Physical disability

 

75

35

40

1

Non-Government

315

125

190

5

Total

Reported by: Basma Qaddour