WASHINGTON (CMC) – The World Bank says the inclusion of persons with disabilities is “crucial” for the sustainable development of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).
In a new report, the Washington-based financial institution said about 85 million people in Latin America and the Caribbean have some type of disability, accounting for 14.7 per cent of the total population.
The report discusses the physical and legal barriers of persons with disabilities and the need to further efforts for the inclusion of this group “to build a more prosperous, resilient future.”
According to global data, the exclusion of persons with disabilities may represent a loss of a country’s gross domestic product (GDP), ranging from three to seven per cent.
In the framework of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is celebrated every December 3, the report indicates that one of every three households in the region has at least one person with some type of disability.
The prevalence is higher in rural areas and among the extremely poor, according to the report, titled “Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Path to Sustainable Development.”
The report notes that the exclusion of persons with disabilities is not only unfair but unsustainable, adding that 15 percent of children with disabilities are not enrolled in school and one in two people.
“In Latin America and the Caribbean, we have a huge task ahead of rebuilding economies after one of the most devastating crises – that caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said World Bank Vice-president for Latin America and the Caribbean, Carlos Felipe Jaramillo.
“Global evidence demonstrates that growth alone will not be enough to reduce existing inequalities. Persons with disabilities must be able to participate fully in public life without experiencing discrimination or marginalisation in schools or workplaces.
“Furthermore, they must be able to accumulate the human capital needed to be included and have dignity and opportunities in life, and to be able to contribute to the reconstruction of our countries,” Jaramillo added.
The World Bank said poverty, lack of access to education and job opportunities, informality, lack of recognition of legal capacity and discrimination are realities that persons with disabilities experience daily.
According to the report, “disability and poverty feed off each other” and that one in five households living in extreme poverty in the region has a member with a disability.
Additionally, the report notes that nearly seven in 10 households with persons with disabilities are vulnerable to falling into poverty in crisis situations.
The report examines how some groups that already face other disadvantages are especially vulnerable, including women, the rural population, indigenous peoples and people of African descent.
The report states gender inequalities also exacerbate imbalances. In most countries of the region, the probability of being vulnerable increases if the household is headed by a woman, the report says.
When a household has a person with functional dependency, the study found that it is mostly women who assume the unpaid caretaking responsibilities.
The report says the value of unpaid caretaking work ranges from 16 to 25 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).
“The number of people with disabilities will tend to increase in the future owing to the aging of the population since disabilities tend to accumulate with age,” the report states, adding the regional population aged 60 and over will grow from 59 million today to an estimated 196 million by 2050, “making it essential to advance inclusive policies.”
Failure to do so, the report warns, could jeopardise the long-term sustainability of the post-pandemic recovery.
Given that persons with disabilities are a diverse group, the report emphasises the importance of designing policies tailored to the specific conditions of each country and situation.
“Doing so requires more and better data, clear and measurable goals, addressing and eliminating stereotypes, and empowering organisations of persons with disabilities.”
The report underscores the degree of extreme vulnerability of a large part of this group and highlights the current growing visibility of the exclusion of persons with disabilities.
“This situation poses a significant challenge to the sustainable development of Latin America and the Caribbean,” it added.