People living with disabilities call for integration

Kabul, December 2, 2004 (IRIN) - The disabled in Afghanistan have contributions to make but they need more support to help them integrate into society.

This was the call from disabled groups on Thursday as the country observed the International Day of Disabled Persons. According to the Afghan Ministry of Martyrs and Disabled the country has more than 1 million people living with various levels of disability - the result of decades of devastating conflict and the lack of a health infrastructure. This is one of the highest percentages anywhere in the world.

"We should understand that the war was responsible for only 25 percent of all disabled Afghans, the rest have been disabled as a result of poverty, illiteracy and cultural practices," said Parwin Azimi, an adviser to the ministry.

In a new report released the same day, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) called for joint efforts to support the integration of disabled Afghans. Discrimination affects most disabled people, according to the report. This takes the form of verbal and physical abuse, lack of access to education and healthcare, lack of social opportunities and barriers to employment.

"Despite the laudable efforts of a few organizations, no proper results can be expected as long as disability awareness and advocacy are not raised and the reintegration is not implemented by law," said Alberto Cairo, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) orthopedic projects in Afghanistan.