A total of 15 per cent of the Pacific population lives with some form of disability, but overall government spending on disability in the Pacific is alarmingly low – less than 0.15 per cent of the GDP, says United Nations Resident Coordinator Office (UNRCO) peace and development officer Akuila Sovanivalu.
He highlighted this at a Pacific Disability Forum on Thursday evening at the Grand Pacific Hotel.
“In many Pacific island countries, the employment rate for people with disabilities is less than half that of people without disabilities,” he said.
“Children with disabilities in the Pacific are less likely to attend school than children without disabilities.
“In some countries, the primary school completion rate for children with disabilities is as low as 20 per cent.”
He said a major challenge was the lack of disaggregated data and statistics of persons with disabilities.
“This makes it difficult to formulate public policies that are responsive to people with disabilities.
“We note with concern that the Pacific region has some of the highest rates of psychosocial disability in the world, with an estimated 10 to 20 per cent of the population affected and most of the people living with mental health disorders are not receiving appropriate treatment and support.”
Mr Sovanivalu added that persons with disabilities were among the first victims of natural disasters.
“The main challenges are access to services, response plans adapted to their needs, participation and access to information.”