Poverty, Disability and Social Exclusion

Photo credits: The man and the sea. Pepito Frias Photo, 2003.

by: Dr. Victor Santiago Pineda

Over the past 30 years, studies conducted in various countries, such as Japan, Lebanon, Jordan, India, South Africa, among others have shown that stigma and prejudice is often the result of a lack of knowledge of and awareness about people with disability which exists at all levels—from the family to the community to decision makers at the highest levels. Such stigma and prejudice leads to social marginalization and lack of equal access to educational, employment and social support mechanisms that result in profound poverty for millions of persons with disabilities. The interconnection between disability, social exclusion and poverty has been described by the World Bank as a “vicious cycle” with “disability being both a cause and a consequence of poverty”.

While not all individuals who are born with disability or become disabled are poor, the poor are more likely to become disabled due to poor nutrition, lack of medical care, dangerous housing conditions, injuries on the job and violence. And once disabled, such individuals are significantly less likely to receive the education or training needed to find employment, or have equal access to the social networks, community resources or economic and legal support systems that would buffer the impacts of poverty. A growing body of studies shows that the links between disability and poverty, while still poorly understood, are more complex and nuanced than previously thought. James Wolfenson, the former President of the World Bank said, “By including disabled people in development, the Bank will, over the longer term, reduce the economic costs associated with disability within societies and, as a result, reduce poverty across the world.” Efforts currently underway at the World Bank aim to ensure that people with disabilities in a given community benefit from development programs on an equal basis with their non-disabled.

Source: United Nations. Disability and the Millennium Development Goals A Review of the MDG Process and Strategies for Inclusion of Disability Issues in Millennium Development Goal Efforts. New York: United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2011. http://www.un.org/disabilities/documents/review_of_disability_and_the_mdgs.pdf.

Photo credits: The man and the sea. Pepito Frias Photo, 2003

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