The United Nations says the number of people in Africa with disabilities has doubled in a decade. VOA's Peter Heinlein reports from Addis Ababa victims of conflict are a large percentage of the increase.
U.N. population officer Hassan Musa Yousif says one in 10 Africans suffers some disability. Speaking before a U.N. conference on rights of disabled persons, which is being held in Addis Ababa next week, Yousif told reporters the number of disabled has increased sharply during the past decade.
"Generally the number of people in Africa with various disabilities [it] has doubled," he said. "That is for sure. Most of the countries it has doubled, and we need to give special care to these people with various kinds of disabilities."
Yousif says the sharp increase in the number of people with disabilities is partly due to better record keeping, though many developing countries still have little or no statistical information about their disabled populations. But he says a significant part of the increase is made up of war victims.
"Many countries, take for example my home country, Sudan and several other countries in the continent," he said. "Even here in Ethiopia, the wars and the conflict that was fought a few years ago, you see one of the results of that conflict is various people with different kinds of disabilities. Amputated arms, hands, blind, whatever. Conflict contributed a lot to disability in Africa."
Many of these young war victims and others with disabilities have been invited to attend the Addis Ababa conference. Fiona McConnon of the British charity Leonard Cheshire Disabilty says these young people will be taught how to act as advocates on behalf of others denied access to education, employment and services because of their disabilities.
"We think it is really important that young disabled people also understand the convention, are involved in the monitoring of the convention, so we are bringing to the conference some young disabled people," said McConnon. "And when they go back to their countries, they will be working with other young disabled people to monitor the convention and to feed back to their governments what they are doing well, what they are not."
The disabilities conference is being sponsored by the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa and the Cheshire Disability. The three-day meeting is expected to draw hundreds of people from scores of countries, who are interested in improving the quality of life for the estimated 650 million disabled people worldwide.