Country Disability Profile
According to the 2001 population and housing census, 5 percent of Namibians live with disabilities of whom 21 percent suffer from deafness, 35 percent blindness, 11 percent speech difficulties and 27 percent from disabilities affecting the hands and legs, while 5 percent suffer from mental defects.
The same census report revealed that 5 percent of the people live in Kunene, of which 18 percent suffer from deafness, 35 percent blindness, 16 percent speech difficulties, 45 percent with hand and leg disabilities, and 5 percent suffer mental defects. Physical disability is therefore a huge challenge facing Namibia generally.
The 1990 Namibian Constitution explicitly recognizes the inalienable human rights and freedoms of all its citizens, and by implication this must include disabled people.
The Namibian Government signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on the 25th April 2007, and ratified the Convention (including the Optional Protocol on the 4th December, 2007.
The primary responsibility for disability issues within the Namibian Government lies with the Ministry of Health and Social Services. In addition, a Disability Unit was established in 2001 located in the Prime Minister's Office in year. In recent years, this Unit has represented the Government of Namibia at the negotiations on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, attending the Ad Hoc Committee meetings which were held in New York.
In 1997, the Namibian Government developed its National Disability Policy, which is underpinned by the social model of disability (Government of Namibia, 1997). The overall objective of this policy is to ensure that all disabled people are able to participate in mainstream contemporary society, by providing adequate services. This policy endorses the principles of inclusive education, in the belief that all children with disabilities should attend mainstream schools.
Namibia in one the very few African countries that has a social protection programmes for disabled people. The policy also recognizes the need for disabled people to be provided with sufficient employment opportunities, with the policy providing the basis of the Affirmative Action (Employment) Act 1998, which makes provision for the establishment of vocational rehabilitation training centres. Notwithstanding the comprehensiveness of the 1997 National Disability Policy, to date there seems to be little manifestation of any of its provisions being implemented.
In March, 2005 the Ministry of Health and Social Services published its National Policy for Mental Health (Ministry of Health and Social Services, 2004). Despite the fact that there is no robust statistical data regarding the magnitude of mental illness and learning difficulties within Namibia, it is nevertheless widely acknowledged that this is an increasing problem, and that mental health services lag behind other medical services within the country.
In June 2008, the final report on the National Policy on Inclusive Education, commissioned by the Ministry of Education was published. This policy should be seen within the context of an emerging development towards inclusive education in Namibia.
In order to address some of challenges outlines above, the Government through the ministry of Health and the Office of the Prime Minister, has been partnering with key stakeholders in the disability sector, including the NFPDN, to implement various programs geared at improving and maintaining the health and social well-being of persons living with disabilities.
For example, in 2006 the Ministry embarked on a national project that sought to enhance the consolidation and strengthening of services to improve access and quality of services for people with disabilities.
As regards the situation of Persons with Disabilities in Namibia, they encounter multiple levels on exclusion and discrimination, as evidenced by the 2004 Disability Living Conditions Survey conducted by SINTEF (Eide, A. et al 2003). This survey showed that disabled children were more than twice as likely not to have received a primary education than their non-disabled counterparts.
Furthermore, 98% of disabled people were unemployed. The survey showed that there was gross inadequacy in the provision of vocational rehabilitation, counseling service and access to assisted devices. Such challenges continue to persist even today.
This analysis has been adapted from the "Disability Policy Audit In Namibia, Swaziland, Malawi and Mozambique," a research commissioned in July 2008 by the Southern African Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD) under its "SAFOD Research Programme (SRP)," financed by DFID.