About 54 percent of PWDs said health facilities don’t provide necessary services

There are about 22,000 Bhutanese living with disabilities, according to a recent study by the Gross National Happiness Commission.

However, the figure on the needs assessment of people with disabilities (PWD) is based on PHCB 2005. Bhutan lacks comprehensive data on disability with different sectors maintaining information for their own programmes and projects.

The recent study was conducted to inform the drafting of a national policy for people with disability.

At the Inclusive Education Conference in Paro on November 14, senior research officer with the commission, Tashi Dorji, said they approached almost all relevant agencies for information on disability and found that they had limited data on PWD.

“The country also lacks legislation or policy for persons with disability,” he said.

PWD include those who have long-term physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments.

Tashi Dorji said of the 496 PWDs interviewed, 57 percent were male and 43 percent were female. They found that 29.6 percent of PWDs are married to PWD while 59 percent of the PWDs have never married.

At least 76.4 percent households interviewed have one PWD living with them. However, over 25 percent of households reported having more than two PWDs in each home.

“We have 73.6 percent of PWDs with multiple disability apart from vision, hearing, immobility, and communication difficulty,” Tashi Dorji said. “Almost 60 percent of the PWDs found out about the disability by themselves and 7.2 percent by the health professionals who visited them.”

The study also found that 82 percent of the PWDs live in proper housing like concrete building, traditional building, dakcha zhikom, while some live in improper house like huts, which are not in a liveable condition. Of the 375 who are above 18 years old, seven percent of the PWDs were employed.

It was found that only three percent has attended or are attending early childhood care and development (ECCD) while 38 percent could not attend ECCD because of lack of centers in their communities.

“About 54 percent of PWDs responded that the nearest health facility did not provide all the necessary services related to disability due lack of health professionals,” he said. “Majority of them were referred to other health facilities and many resorted to traditional and indigenous practices.”

The study also revealed that about 18 percent of PWDs faced some form of violence of which 9.4 percent are male while 8.4 percent of females have experienced one or more forms of violence. It was found that 84 percent of the perpetrators are known to the PWD. The study also reported that only 16 percent of them are aware of laws protecting children and women.

Tashi Dorji said that were no budget allocation for PWD programme in the dzongkhag, no participation of PWDs in public meetings and functions in the gewogs, and lack of career opportunities among others.

These findings were shared to more than 30 school principals and dzongkhag/thromde education officers who attended the two-day conference.

The conference was held to identify the scope of leadership in the special education processes and understand everyone’s responsibility towards inclusive education.

Department of school and education’s director general, Karma Tshering, said that the education ministry is placing greater importance in inclusive education by enhancing special education programme to ensure that all children including children with special needs have access to educational opportunity and services.

There are 14 special education needs (SEN) schools including two special schools in the country. More than 500 students with special needs are receiving special support from teachers and principals.

“With this conference we expect all education officers and principals to take extra initiative in promoting inclusiveness and education programmes in schools,” he said.

The ministry plans to establish at least one school with special education programme in every dzongkhag and thromde in the 12th Plan.

Yangchen C Rinzin | Paro