The prime minister is currently on a three-day state visit to Bhutan
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged all the countries of the world to adopt effective policies for the persons with disabilities in a bid to provide them a dignified life in the society.
She made the call while inaugurating an international conference on autism in Bhutan as the guest of honour Wednesday.
“It is necessary for countries to support their most vulnerable citizens to ensure that no individual is neglected,” the prime minister was quoted by BSS as saying.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare of Bangladesh and the Ministry of Health of Bhutan are jointly organising the three-day “International Conference on Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders” at the Royal Banquet Hall.
“Let’s commit ourselves to recognising their multi-faceted talents beyond the diagnosis of the disorder and enable them to live life with dignity and hope in our inclusive society,” the prime minister said.
Sheikh Hasina 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,” she said.
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.
Sheikh 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.
Moreover, 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 standardised programmes remain inaccessible to families living outside major urban cities and beyond their means,” she added.
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.
“No matter where on the spectrum they are, they all deserve to live in dignity and be loved by people around them,” she said.
The prime minister said incorporating disability and autism into the mainstream national developmental agenda is one of the priority areas of her government.
“We have integrated it in the National 7th Five Year Plan for 2016-2021,” she said.
For the first time, she said, the nation-wide census has included information on persons living with disabilities including autism.
“We have taken a number of legislative, social and medical initiatives to address the issue of autism,” she said.
Wishing the success of the conference, the prime minister hoped that the participants, over the next couple of days, would deliberate on the core and critical issues to make a difference in the lives of people with ASD.
Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay greeted the people of Bangladesh on the occasion of Bangla Nababarsha and said the hosting of the conference is a “wonderful coincidence” in the Autism Awareness Month.
He thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for attending the conference despite her busy schedule and acknowledged Bangladesh’s leading role in creating awareness about autism worldwide under her leadership.
He also praised the instrumental role of Saima Wazed Hossain in building awareness about autism and congratulated her on being designated as ‘WHO Champion for Autism’ in South-East Asia Region.