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World Health Assembly commits to strengthen rehabilitation services for people with disabilities

Around the world, 600 million people live with some form of disability, often in poor conditions and without access to basic needs. Today, the World Health Assembly has unanimously adopted a resolution that could substantially improve the lives of people with disabilities.

"By adopting this resolution on disability, the world is rejecting the view that people with disabilities have little to offer to their societies," said Dr LEE Jong-wook, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). "Including people with disabilities and providing them with access to health and rehabilitation services is vital. We must work towards making our world a world for all."

The Resolution adopted by the World Health Assembly draws attention to people living with physical, sensory and mental disabilities of various types, their health and rehabilitation needs, and the cost of their exclusion from society. The resolution also expresses concern about the rapid increase in the number of people with disabilities, as a result of chronic diseases, injuries, malnutrition, HIV/AIDS, population growth and medical advances which preserve and prolong life. About 80% of people with disabilities live in low-income countries where poverty further limits their access to basic health services, including rehabilitation services.

The Resolution calls upon Member States to strengthen implementation of the United Nations Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities (UNGA resolution 48/96); promote the rights and dignity of people with disabilities; support community-based rehabilitation programmes; and include a disability component in their health policies and programmes. The WHO Director-General is requested to support Member States in these efforts and to collect more reliable data on all relevant aspects of disability, especially for children.

The availability of rehabilitation services in hospitals and local communities; the provision of assistive devices such as wheelchairs, prosthesis or hearing aids; and access to education and employment are among the measures that governments can take to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Addressing stigma and discrimination is also a priority as they are among the main obstacles to the inclusion and full participation of people with disabilities in their societies.

WHO will offer Member States full support to implement the Resolution. As a part of this, WHO and its partners, including representatives of disabled people's organizations, have begun a process for development of a World report on disability and rehabilitation. Based on the best available scientific evidence, the findings and recommendations from the report will guide work in the field for years to come.

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For more information contact:

Ms Laura Sminkey
Technical Officer
WHO Department of Injuries and Violence Prevention
Telephone: +41 22 791 4547
Mobile phone: +41 79 249 3520
E-mail: sminkeyl@who.int

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