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President calls for collective efforts to mainstream differently abled

By Our Correspondent
January 10, 2020

Islamabad: President Arif Alvi Thursday hosted a high-level consultation with leading civil society representatives from across Pakistan to discuss how the government is expanding access to services for people with disabilities through the Ehsaas programme.

“Differently-abled people deserve special attention as they face many hardships, not all of them as a result of their disability,” said President Alvi. He emphasised that collective efforts from all segments of society in synergy with the government are required to mainstream them in society as well as in social, economic and political decision making.

Also in attendance were the First Lady of Pakistan Samina Alvi, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection Dr. Sania Nishtar, SAPM on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza, wives of the Governors of Sindh, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, MD Pakistan Baitul Mal Aon Abbas Bappi, representative from the World Health Organization, and members of the civil society.

Held in the President’s House, the two-hour session included a presentation by Dr. Sania, who explained how Ehsaas is targeting its policies to ensure that the differently abled can thrive in Pakistan. “Under the Ehsaas Framework, differently-abled persons will be empowered by new policies including social protection, health insurance, government job quotas and access to opportunities.

Specific policies to support people with disabilities within the Ehsaas Strategy include Insaf health insurance cards, which provide beneficiaries access to treatment in registered hospitals, universal access to assistive devices including wheelchairs and hearing aids, quotas in government housing schemes and government employment, certificates of disability issued by public sector hospitals according to UN definitions, establishment of 20 centers for the physically challenged in under-privileged districts, and accessibility requirements for public buildings.

Estimates that 10 and 15 percent of the world’s population live with a disability, if applied to Pakistan, would number between 20 and 31 million people. According to official estimates in Pakistan, which are believed to be conservative, 2.5 percent of the population has some form of “severe” disability, which suggest many people are falling through the cracks and not in receipt of the support they deserve.

A National Rapid Assistive Technology (AT) Assessment Survey to assess the population in need of AT is underway to assess the type of Assistive products needed. This survey is being conducted by the Ministry of National Health Services, the participants were informed.