The Situation of Disabled People in Developing Countries

Disabilities in the developing countries


About 80 per cent of all disabled persons live in isolated rural areas in developing countries. In some of these countries, the percentage of the disabled population is estimated to be as high as 20%, and if families and relatives are included, 50 per cent of the population could be negatively affected by disability. By the fact that, for the most part, disabled persons are also usually extremely poor people, the problem is more complex. They often live in areas where medical and other related services are scarce, or even totally absent, and where disabilities are not and cannot be detected in time. When they do receive medical attention, if they receive it at all, the impairment may have become irreversible. In many countries, there is a huge need for the rehabilitation and supportive services of the disabled population. Trained personnel, research into newer and more effective strategies and approaches to rehabilitation and the manufacturing and provision of aids and equipment for disabled persons are quite inadequate.


Key messages 

  • People with disabilities account for approximately 15% of the world population, i.e. more than one billion people.
  • 80% of people with disabilities live in developing countries.
  • There is a strong link between disability and poverty, disability being both a cause and a consequence of poverty: poor people are more likely to become disabled, and people with disabilities are among the poorest.
  • Any effort to reduce and eliminate poverty can only be effective if it takes into account people with disabilities, who are among the most vulnerable groups.
  • It is important to consult with people with disabilities directly to understand their situation and better meet their priorities.


Global trends and evolutions 

The number of people with disabilities is increasing, because of a longer life and chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Other environmental factors, such as road accidents and natural disasters, contribute to the increase of numbers in some contexts.

Disability covers a great variety of situations. The global disability situation also reveals significant inequalities, as people with disabilities are not a homogeneous group. Poor people, women, and old people are more likely to experience disability than others. While disa­bility correlates with disadvantage, not all people with disabilities are equally disadvantaged. Women with disabilities experience gender dis­crimination as well as disabling barriers.