A New Chapter for Disability in the Third World
Advocacy Of the estimated 93 million children living with a moderate or severe disability, 80 percent reside in the developing world.
Afflicted with conditions like amputations, clubfoot, cerebral palsy and others, a majority of those 80 percent living with disability survive on their family’s combined daily income—ranging from $2 to $10. The short and long-term hardships for a child suffering with an untreated limb disability include not only their ability to perform basic tasks independently, but their quality of life, both physically and economically, along with their opportunity to add value socially.
Take, for instance, a child born missing the lower part of his right leg, living with his siblings and his working mother and father, in a rural village in Cambodia. Without the luxury of public transportation, and without the prosthetic device that would enable him to walk the 3 km to and from school, he simply cannot attend.
"Mobility provides access to education, employment and the opportunity to live self-sufficiently and with self-esteem."
The big picture
This scenario and its implications are far too common. Ninety percent of disabled children in the developing world do not—cannot—attend school. Without a formal education, disabled adolescents are limited to below-poverty levels of income through dangerous work options like street-begging or gathering plastic from toxic landfills. And without sustainable employment, disabled adults struggle significantly to support themselves, their families and to contribute meaningfully to their communities.
Mobility provides access to education, employment and the opportunity to live self-sufficiently and with self-esteem. A simple treatment solution does exist for the millions of children suffering needlessly in the developing world. Local and international NGOs provide gratis or affordable treatment by working with local resources to drive the cost of a functional prosthetic device, for instance, down to as low as $250—compared to more than $10,000 in the United States.
That simple device can provide so many opportunities. But in order to reach even a fraction of the millions of children struggling to access treatment, we need more thoughtful discourse regarding the difference mobility makes to the lives that are at stake, and proactive support for the people and organizations that are connecting those lives with the treatment solutions that can change their outcome.