“The government wants to help integrate disabled people into society. It is especially focusing on education and training for deaf children,” Minister for Social Welfare Syed Haroon Ahmed Sultan Bokhari said on Monday.
He was addressing at a seminar organised at the University of Health Sciences (UHS) by the Society for Audiological and Developmental Ailments (SADA) in connection with the World Ear Care Day.
The minister said the government would cooperate with NGOs for rehabilitation of disabled persons.
SADA President Afzal Alam said prevalence of hearing loss in Pakistan was 7 to 8 per 1,000 live births. He said the rate was increasing every year.
He said there were 300,000 deaf people in Pakistan.
He said according to WHO estimates, around 300 million people worldwide had a disabling hearing impairment and this could increase to 900 million by 2025.
He said cousin marriages, infections during birth, lack of oxygenation at the time of birth and poor access to basic treatment needs of mother and child were associated with hearing disorders of various forms. Alam said most people facing acute hearing loss problems could be treated through surgery and medication after proper and accurate diagnosis.
He said the market rate of the hearing aid varied – from Rs 10,000 to Rs30,000- which was out of reach for a lot of people with hearing disabilities.
“People with severe to profound hearing loss will be unable to hear well even with hearing aids. In such cases, cochlear implant may be helpful. However, these implants are very expensive and may cost Rs1,500,000 to Rs2,200,000,” Afzal said.
Alam said in the last 10 years, there had been only 1,000 cochlear implants in Pakistan. He said in United States there had been more than 300,000 implants in the last 5 to 8 years.
UHS Pro-Vice Chancellor Junaid Sarfraz Khan, King Edward Medical University’s professor of ENT Dr Mansoor Basir Pal, Children Hospital chief audiologist Dr Fauzia Saeed, professor of developmental peadiatrics at Children Hospital Dr Shazia Maqbool, social worker Sheikh Attaur Rehman and parents of children with hearing loss also spoke on the occasion.
Later, an awareness walk was held on the varsity campus in which a large number of students, doctors, special children and their parents participated.
Advisor to Chief Minister on Health Khawaja Salman Rafique said health education would be introduced as a subject in schools syllabus to promote awareness regarding preventive measures against diseases.
He said government would encourage production of hearing aids at local level for their availability at a low price.
The seminar was jointly organised by Hamza Foundation, Punjab University and Punjab Special Education Department.
Rafique lauded the efforts of teachers of disabled children.
“Sometimes even parents of these children lose patience but their teachers are always patient and polite with them,” he said.
Disabled children sang the national anthem and performed skits on the occasion.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2014.