The call was made recently by Minister of Health, Social Services, Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs, Marcella Liburd, on the occasion of the observance of International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 3rd December 2010.
In an address carried on national television and radio, Minister Liburd explained that this year’s theme is, “Keeping the Promise, Mainstreaming Disability in the Millennium Development Goals Towards 2015 and Beyond.”
She noted that since the day was established in 1981, it has had as its aim, the promotion of a better understanding of issues of disability “with a focus on rights of persons with disabilities and gains to be derived from the integration of persons with disabilities in every aspect of the political, social, economic and cultural life of their communities.”
“For us in St. Kitts and Nevis these aims are most important hence it is an honour for me… to implore us to reflect on this year’s theme particularly given the promises made by world leaders including ours, at the Millennium Development Goal Summit in September 2010 when we committed to improving the lives of persons with disabilities.”
The Minister explained that although the Federation is not – at present – in a position to “quantify the number of persons in St. Kitts and Nevis with disabilities”, it is clear that there are persons who are affected.
She therefore stressed that, “It is…imperative that we work collectively to improve their integration in all aspects of national development. This is necessary given the realisation that very often disability is also highly correlated with poverty resulting in people with disabilities being disproportionately represented amongst the sub-groups of those living in poverty in many developing countries.”
Minister Liburd asserted that persons living with disabilities likely suffer high rates of unemployment and often lack access to adequate health care and adequate education.
While she expressed her ministry’s commitment to assisting disables persons in living more fruitful lives, she made a special call to all to lend their support in this regard.
“My ministry is acutely aware of the negative impacts of such trends and will continue to work with the Association of Persons Living with Disabilities to enable them to overcome these obstacles. We recognize that persons with disabilities continue to display great courage and resilience. But even as we continue to be inspired by those who reach the highest levels of human development, such successes must not obscure the difficulties faced by those who live in desperate conditions and lack the rights, privileges and opportunities available to their fellow citizens…
“I urge us all to become more sensitive to the needs of persons with disabilities. Let us join in empowering them as we ourselves may just be one accident or one diagnosis away from being part of that group.”