Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pakistan announces 3-year program to improve inclusion of disabled people

From The International News August 27:

Islamabad -- To help disabled persons socialise so that they could play an active role in the community, a three-year project titled ‘Promotion of Social Development Participation of Persons with Disabilities’ was launched here on Aug. 26.

Funded by the Japanese government, the project is to be initiated in 12 districts of Abbottabad by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in collaboration with the Department of Social Welfare and Community Development, District Abbottabad.

The project includes training of Persons with Disability (PWD) so as to equip them with leadership skills and facilitate them in the formation of Disabled People Organizations (DPOs), Self Help Organizations (SHOs) and family Associations. The aim of the project is also to build an interface between disabled and non-disabled people through awareness raising, dissemination of information and experience sharing. Addressing the media, JICA Resident Representative Takau Kaibora said that a study was conducted in the area before the formulation of the project.

“Our expert Naoto Ikeda trained a team of 15 disabled persons which conducted a survey to point out the major issues that need to be addressed on an urgent basis,” he said.

Citing an example of one such case, Kaibora said that during their study they found a disabled woman who had not seen the world outside her home for 40 years.

“The basic problem faced by these people is their exclusion from society and the project thus would focus on the issue,” he said.

Highlighting the aim behind launching the pilot project, he said that it would assist the Pakistan government in National Plan of Action (NPA) that was developed to implement the National Policy for Persons with Disability.

“Lessons learnt from the project will help in implementing the NPA throughout the country,” he hoped.

The federal government sought JICA’s technical assistance for the implementation. In this response JICA dispatched a study team from May to June 2007 to Pakistan for prioritizing possible areas of support and proposed a strategic framework for long-term potential support for disabled persons.

JICA Programme Officer Nazia Seher told ‘The News’ that the study had revealed that non-cooperation and lack of participation of PWDs in social activities hinders the implementation of other key areas of NPA such as provision of medical treatment, education, vocational training and employment.

“The team concluded that there is need for such approaches that not only focus on providing more quality services but also aim at promoting social participation of PWDs.” She said that according to census 12 percent of the population was disabled which reveals that a huge number of people need special attention.

She said that two Japanese experts would visit Pakistan in November for the purpose of training officials in this regard.

“We will also provide trainings in Japan, Malaysia and Bangkok,” she said, adding that those trained persons would then organise PWDs in groups and identify key leaders who could act as catalysts in future. Nazia said that the Japanese government would also provide special vehicles and equipment that could be used for this purpose by the disabled persons.

“The project is designed in a way that more and more disabled persons could be involved in the process,” she added.

On the occasion, Kaibora announced that the Japanese government was also planning to fund a children’s hospital in Peshawar on the pattern of the same built at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS).

Discussing the accessibility issue for PWDs, Director General Special Education Khalid Naeem said that the government was planning to make all provincial headquarters disabled-friendly as a first step.

“Slowly the main cities and then the entire country will be made disabled-friendly,” he added.

Provincial Secretary for Zakat and Usher Committee for NWFP Shah Sahib said that such investment was vital as huge complexes were built for disabled persons by the government but majority of the population was not ready to send their special children to such institutions.