ECOWAS to Formulate Regional Action Plan on Disability

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Michael Olugbode in Abuja

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) at the weekend disclosed that it would unveil Regional Action Plan on Disability to fully include persons with disabilities in all strata of the society.

ECOWAS, a regional political and economic union of fifteen countries, also revealed that it had initiated a regional study on disability inclusion in the ECOWAS, which it said, would culminate in the formulation of a regional action plan on disability.

The Director of Humanitarian Affairs, ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Sintiki Tarfa-Ugbe disclosed the plan on Friday at the commemoration of 2020 International Day of Persons with Disabilities with theme: “From COVID-19 towards a sustainable and resilient ECOWAS from all persons with disabilities; leave no one behind.”

At the forum, Tarfa-Ugbe quoted the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Antonio Guterres: “Societies will never achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) without the full participation of everyone, including people with disabilities.

“Upholding the rights of people with disabilities is a moral imperative. But it is not an act of charity. It is a recognition of rights and practical necessity, if we are to build healthy, sustainable societies to the benefit of everyone- those with disabilities, and without.” s

She noted that at the continental level, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has adopted a draft protocol on the rights of persons with disabilities, intended to complement the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and address the continued exclusion, harmful practices, and discrimination affecting those with disabilities, especially women, children, and the elderly.

She said Africa’ disability architecture estimated that people with disabilities constituted about ten percent of Africa’s total population, noting that this did not however sufficiently reflect the prevalence of disability in the region as evidence suggested that prevalence rates were higher than actually reported.

She said ECOWAS “is using this occasion to impress on all stakeholders to reflect on our institutional and personal commitments to ensure that in each of our areas of work we consider the inclusivity of persons with disabilities and further coordinate to guarantee their dignity and rights, which is fundamental.

“The ECOWAS Commission plays a strategic goal in promoting social inclusion in the region. It is worthy mentioning that the Commission has initiated a regional on disability inclusion in the ECOWAS which will culminate in the formulation of a Regional Action Plan on Disability.”

Also speaking at the forum, the Vice Chair of the West Africa Federation of the Disabled, Ms. Ekaete Umoh asked that the ongoing COVID-19 vaccines be made available to persons with disabilities, although with caution.

She said a proper study should be conducted on the impact of the vaccine on persons with disabilities, especially those that have had problems with their Central Nervous System so that they would not be exposed to dangerous reactions.