ANI Photo | No one will be left behind through implementation of UN Disability Inclusion Strategy: WHO

To mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the World Health Organisation (WHO) is reiterating its commitment to leaving no one behind through the implementation of the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy, an official release said.
As countries in the region work towards achieving UHC, it is crucial that health policies and programmes take into full consideration the needs and priorities of persons with disabilities.
This is aligned with this year’s United Nations’ theme for International Day for Persons with Disabilities, ‘United in Action to Rescue and Achieve the SDGs for, with, and by Persons with Disabilities,’ WHO said in a press release.
In the past, WHO has focused efforts on specific services such as rehabilitation and assistive technology provision, which are important for many people with disabilities; however, we need to get the balance right. We need a balance in ensuring persons with disabilities also receive equitable access to maternal and child health services, are prevented or treated for cancer, do not experience catastrophic health costs, and are protected during health emergencies, just like everyone else. WHO recognises that ensuring that persons with disabilities can realise their right to health is a critical part of achieving the SDGs and leaving no one behind, WHO’s release added.
Persons with disabilities are often referred to as “the world’s largest minority,” with an estimated 1.3 billion people globally experiencing significant disability. Approximately 16 per cent of the Southeast Asia Region’s population experiences significant disability. Many people with disabilities are likely to die earlier or have a higher risk of disease compared to everyone else. These health inequities are not due to the underlying health condition that a person with a disability has, but largely to a range of unfair and unjust factors within and beyond the health sector.
Thus, the ground-breaking commitment to disability inclusion that WHO is taking as part of our efforts to leave no one behind is a cause for celebration. As part of the UN system, WHO at all levels is taking action to implement the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy (UNDIS), recognising that including persons with disabilities in our business operations work and technical programming is part of our core business, the release also said.
The UNDIS gives WHO a framework that supports the inclusion of members of our workforce who have a disability, as well as promoting disability inclusion as part of our business operations and technical programming work. Whether our role at WHO is working in ICT, procurement, communications, or one of the technical areas, how we include disability and persons with disabilities in our work matters.
It matters because at WHO we recognise the importance of non-discrimination, both for our workforce as well as delivery for member states, to ensure health for all, particularly those most marginalised. The UNDIS, together with our own WHO Policy on Disability, provides a practical pathway to addressing the barriers that prevent persons with disabilities from being included in WHO’s actions within our organisation and in countries and is a model for our work to promote human rights and ensure health equity for everyone, it added.
The WHO South-East Asia Regional Office has provided steadfast leadership in the implementation of UNDIS and WHO policies on disabilities. The region office has formed the WHO South-East Asia Region United Nations Disability Inclusion Steering and Working Group and has already conducted two joint meetings and provided guidance and action on taking forward the UNDIS initiatives.
All the regional member states have ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), Bhutan being the latest one in 2023. The regional office has been supporting the country offices to strengthen the implementation and reporting of UNDIS activities.
To support persons with disabilities, many Member States have also moved forward in the areas of vision and hearing services, the provision of assistive products, and rehabilitation services.
While the WHO should celebrate our achievements, we still have work to do and progress to be made to realise an inclusive WHO. Looking forward, the Regional Office will continue to engage and support Member States in the following key areas:
Firstly, it is important that WHO offices actively promote engaging with persons with disabilities and their representative organisations in all programmatic and business operations.
Secondly, the WHO will pursue making its offices, conferences, and events accessible to persons with disabilities and promote the provision of reasonable accommodation for persons with disabilities in all our activities.
Thirdly, the WHO should live by example and proactively seek recruitment of competent persons with disability and facilitate reasonable accommodation to our staff with disability, the release also said.
On this International Day of Persons with Disabilities, WHO reiterates its commitment to Leave no one behind through the implementation of the UN Disability Inclusion Strategy.

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