An entry in The Crocodile Prize
PNG Chamber of Mines & Petroleum
Award for Essays & Journalism
THE O’Neill-Dion government’s proposed welfare scheme for disabled people in Papua New Guinea brings hope and meaning to despondent disabled people throughout the nation.
In PNG people with disability are confronted with many problems each day and the two that lead to self-defeatism and eventual death, particularly among paraplegics, are discrimination and poverty.
Public ridicule and stigmatisation are the worst forms of discrimination that deter disabled people from exercising freedom of movement and equal participation in community programs and activities.
People mock and give names to disabled people when they see them in public places. Hence, in fear of public ridicule and stigma, they often isolate themselves in the confines of their home environs.
Their relatives - also in fear of public ridicule and stigma - lock them up at home when they go about doing their business. They don’t allow disabled people to take part in public meetings and community activities.
But the worst is keeping school age children at home and not allowing them to get an education.
Article 24.2 (a) of the UN Convention on the rights of people with disability states:
“Persons with disabilities are not excluded from the general education system on the basis of disability, and that children with disabilities are not excluded from free and compulsory primary education, or secondary education on the basis of disability.”
And Article (b) tells us:
“Persons with disabilities can access an inclusive, quality and free primary education and secondary education on an equal basis with others in the communities they live in.”
Disabled people, particularly in the rural areas, are suffering extreme poverty.
Because of poor infrastructure and economic opportunities, compounded by their physical impediments, people with disability cannot earn a living. They depend heavily on relatives and general welfare for financial support.
Frequently relatives regard them as liabilities and loathe, neglect and ill treat them.
As a result, disabled people are psychologically self-defeated. They feel rejected by the community. They feel dejected and useless. They feel that there is nothing to live for. There is no meaning to life. All they see is hopelessness and despondency.
Many call it quits and lose their lives. There were 11 of us paraplegics at Sir Joseph Nombri memorial Hospital. Seven passed on. The main contributing factor to their demise was defeatism.
They did not fight for survival when faced with health problems like pressure sores, bladder and kidney problems and so forth. They simply gave up.
One of the diseased was a man around the age of 30. He had a kidney stone and the doctor told him to take care of his diet while on medication. But he deliberately defied the doctor’s advice and accelerated his own demise by drinking home brew and smoking marijuana heavily. You could very well call it suicide.
Another one around the age of 35 had typhoid and refused medication. He told the doctors he wanted to die. Doctors and nurses did everything they could to save his life but he refused it all and died. He just called it quits.
The O’Neill-Dion government’s proposed social welfare scheme for the disabled people brings hope and meaning for life to the disabled people.