Every year thousands of families globally get impacted by Cerebral Palsy (CP). According to the World CP Day Organisation, CP is the biggest reason for childhood disability. In South Asia there is a stigma attached to mental and physical disabilities, most people, due to their beliefs, think that “disability is some sort of a punishment from God for their sins” so they do not face the real challenges in an objective manner.
Things Can Change? Yes ! People can be taught respect and equality if the State and communities provide an infrastructure which gives equal opportunities to all alike. Without any mandatory vaccine or school entrance requirements from the State, chances for early intervention and diagnosis for developmental delays are impossible. There is a law Article 25-A for compulsory education in Pakistan, which has yet to be implemented.
Rural and Rural-Urban
Maternal health and infant mortality rates are high in Pakistan, like rest of the South Asia, despite the provision of district hospitals and Basic Health Units. Widespread ignorance and negligence leaves newborns without any well check or follow-up to be screened for any delayed development.
POLIO vs Cerebral Palsy , Autism and Down Syndrome
Due to the international advisory about Polio and its prevention, the government is focused on the eradication of Polio, which is a good thing! However, support for Cerebral Palsy and other disabilities is disproportionate to what Polio eradication programs receive nation-wide. Cerebral Palsy, Autism and Down Syndrome are three conditions that negatively impact more lives in Pakistan than Polio, as thousands of children are born with them or get these disorders due to damage to their brain before or after birth causing both physical and mental disabilities.
Are all kids with CP and other disabilities have same level of difficulty ?
- Only a fraction of family members understand that their kids require special medical attention, and that there are therapies available for CP kids to survive and thrive to their full potential. Some may even leave the country for the sake of their kid’s survival and for guidance on medical matters, but that is a minority. Things are bit easier for Pakistanis in big cities as they may have access to better services. However,they, too, are affected by the stigma attached to disability and the fear of a difficult future for their kids.
Disability Rights in Pakistan: What’s Missing ?
Despite many special education schools and laws about disabled rights, a functioning welfare system or an early intervention framework is still lacking. Added poverty with undocumented refugees, then a constant state of war situation is a challenge for the healthcare and the social welfare sectors in Pakistan.
According to Cerebral Palsy Alliance and World CP Day.Org
- Cerebral palsy (CP) is the most common physical disability in childhood.
- Globally, there are 17 million people with CP, and 350 million family members and caregivers.
- CP is caused by an injury to the developing brain, usually before birth. For most cases, the cause is unknown.
- CP is a lifelong disability that affects movement and is often accompanied by speech, swallowing, cognitive, vision and hearing impairments.
- Cerebral Palsy is not contagious .
- Anything tied to an initial brain or neurological injury that creates limitations in mobility and balance of affected person is called CP.
- There are no universal Cerebral Palsy symptoms beyond a common factor, which is a neurological or brain injury.
- CP does not progress with time and age, however other associated conditions and health issues can make living more challenging.
One basic aspect of stepping ahead in matters of disability and CP awareness is that we start to educate ourselves and to focus more on spreading awareness amongst our own communities. People who are privileged enough to understand the words Autism, C.P, and Down syndrome, are just a fraction of the population in Pakistan- the rest are in deep dark void. If they are struck with a challenge like a child or a sibling with Autism, a majority of Pakistanis will have no clue who to turn to. We, the smaller group, have to gather our facts, make awareness our habit, and draw recommendations for legislative changes at every level.
October 5th 2016 is World CP Day this year, lots of volunteers are gathering up worldwide to mark this day with better quality of life for CP impacted persons , and to celebrate people who are doing remarkable work despite their challenges !