Globally, 1 billion people live with a disability, and 80% live in a developing country. The cycle of poverty and disability can only be broken if the rights and needs of people with disabilities are addressed.

Two wheelchair bound boys in Cambodia

The facts

Poverty and disability are intrinsically linked. Twenty percent of people living in poverty also live with a disability, and eighty percent of people living with a disability live in developing countries.

People living in poverty are at higher risk of having a physical, sensory, mental or intellectual impairment, due to a range of factors such as unsafe living conditions and inadequate access to health services. At the same time, having a disability can exacerbate issues associated with poverty such as reduced access to education, employment and clean water and increased vulnerability to gender discrimination, economic and social exclusion, conflict and emergencies. The majority of people with disabilities find it difficult to participate as equals in their communities and are commonly excluded.

150 million children live with a disability and subsequently face reduced access to schools, health care, recreation and opportunities for work. Women and girls living with disabilities are more likely to face discrimination than men living with disabilities.

Because of poverty, conflict, land mines, lack of occupational health and safety, poor pre-natal care and diseases such as polio, measles and HIV/AIDS, the number of people living with disabilities continues to increase. This can lead to a situation where the people living in poverty are disproportionately disabled and people living with disabilities disproportionately poor.


Our Caritas approach

Caritas Australia believes that disability is both a cause and a consequence of poverty, and therefore we ensure that all community development programs are accessible to people with disabilities. We also fund initiatives specific to people with disabilities to empower them to actively participate in community development and decision making activities so that they are architects of their own development.

Caritas Australia’s response

  • More than 500 farmers have participated in our sustainable farming program in India. Farmers like Rajan, pictured, who was born with a single, underdeveloped arm, and spent over 40 years carrying the stigma of disability. Read more about Rajan.
  • In Cambodia, our Deaf Development Program (DDP) improves access to education and opportunity for employment for people who are deaf or hearing impaired, and live in far provinces.
  • In Laos, our partner the Lao Disabled Persons Association (LDPA), aids both parents and teachers in developing the skills of children with intellectual disabilities.
  • Also in Laos, the Sight and Sound Program trains teachers to conduct annual eye and ear exams for 6000 primary school-aged children. Through this initiative, children can receive timely support and assistance if they require it.
  • In Vietnam, our Supporting Adults and Children with Disabilities program has provided vocational training and social support for people living with disabilities.
  • Also in Vietnam, through our Capacity Building for Parents Associations Supporting Children with Disabilities program, parents have improved their level of awareness and confidence in supporting their children who live with disabilities to be more fully included in the community.

Australian aid and disability

The infographic below was produced by Good Aid Works in 2013.

Good Aid Works Infographic on aid and disability