Dhaka – Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged that every country should adopt an effective policy for persons with disability to enable them to live with dignity and hope.
“Let’s commit ourselves to recognizing their multi-faceted talents beyond the diagnosis of the disorder and enable them to live life with dignity and hope in our inclusive society,” Hasina said inaugurating an international conference on autism in Bhutanese capital.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of Bangladesh and the Ministry of Health of Bhutan are jointly organizing the three-day “International Conference on Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders” at the Royal Banquet Hall with the technical support of Shuchona Foundation, Ability Bhutan Society, and World Health Organization South-East Asia Regional Office.
The theme of the conference is “Developing effective and sustainable multi-sectorial programs for individuals, families and communities living with ASD and other neurodevelopmental disorders.”
State-run Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha news agency reported Bhutanese Prime Minister Dshao Tshering Tobgay also spoke at the inaugural session.
Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, World Health Organization Regional Director for Southeast Asia, was present at the function as the special guest, while Health Minister of Bhutan Lyonpo Tandin Wangchukk delivered the welcome address.
Parent speaker of the session was Chimmi Lhaden, while Dr Yolanda Liliyana Maya Ortega, founder and executive director of Centro Ann Sulivan del Peru, made a special presentation on “The power of two: families and professionals working as partners for children with autism to become independent, productive and happy”.
Bhutanese Queen Jetsun Pema and Chairperson of Suchana Foundation and Chairperson of Bangladesh National Advisory Committee for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders Saima Wazed Hossain were present on the occasion.
The inaugural session of the conference kicked off with traditional Marchang ceremony of Bhutan.
Prime Minister Hasina said it’s necessary for countries to support their most vulnerable citizens and the governments should make policies and programmes to ensure that no individual is neglected.
She said they deserve to have the opportunity to participate in their country’s economic growth.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that an adequate social and medical support is available for these individuals in all aspects of their lives, from education to employment.”
In recent years, she said, global awareness for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has underscored the need for the development of a strategically planned and systematic approach, particularly for regions and countries with financial and technical limitations.
“Despite our commitments, there are no established guidelines or models to assist them,” she said.
Hasina said programmes requiring linkages between existing infrastructures with inter and intra-disciplinary collaboration are a challenge for all countries.
“Without a systematic framework designed according to current scientific research on autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, service delivery models cannot be effective, financially feasible, or sustainable in the long run,” she said.
There is a significant shortage of reliable data, culturally sensitive, evidence-based intervention programmes, and supervision of existing programmes and services.
“Sometimes, even well standardized programmes remain inaccessible to families living outside major urban cities and beyond their means,” she said.
The premier said the comprehensive mental health action plan 2013-2020 adopted by the World Health Assembly in May 2013 articulates the urgent need to strengthen efforts to address the treatment gap for mental and neurological disorders.
“It outlines strategies and targets for actions in countries. But, financial inaccessibility and need for validation and adaptation of various tools, the scarcity of skilled health professionals, and the lack of service development, hamper our efforts both financially and ethically, in particular in resource-poor settings,” she said.
Based on studies conducted over the past 50 years, she said, ASD can be termed as the fastest growing serious developmental disability.