icddr,b and B-SCAN initiate a country-wide assessment of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) situation for Persons with Disabilities, and Older People in Bangladesh

Dhaka, Bangladesh, 13 September 2022 icddr,b in collaboration with Bangladesh Society for the Change and Advocacy Nexus (B-SCAN) launched a new initiative to conduct a country-wide assessment programme to understand the Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) accessibility of Persons with Disabilities, and Older people in Bangladesh. The event was held at the Hotel Lake Castle, Gulshan, Dhaka.

Persons with disabilities, and older people comprise a significant proportion of the world’s population but often face social and economic exclusion, with COVID-19 making them even more vulnerable. They also have increased risk and inequitable access to WASH, menstrual hygiene management (MHM) services and health facilities, while very limited evidence exists to understand their experiences.

This population-based cross-sectional study will be conducted across all the eight administrative divisions of Bangladesh (from November 2022 to September 2023) to draw a nationally representative sample. A household-based screening will be conducted in selected areas to identify persons with disabilities, and a detailed survey will be carried out, including spot-checking their WASH and MHM services, with at least 656 people with disabilities and an equal number of people without disabilities (matched for gender and age). A qualitative exploration will be conducted with persons with disabilities, older people, caregivers, community people, and policy-level stakeholders. This study will help in identifying the challenges faced by persons with disabilities, older people, and their caregivers, especially during COVID-19, and compare it to people without disabilities, and younger people focusing on WASH, MHM, and healthcare access. The study will also explore the diversity of the challenges based on disability type, socioeconomic status, age, and gender, and will generate recommendations to make evidence-based decisions at both the intervention and policy levels to improve the lives of persons with disabilities, and older people.

Md. Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru, MP, The Honourable State Minister, Ministry of Social Welfare, Government of Bangladesh, graced the seminar as Chief Guest.Ms Shibani Bhattacharjee, Additional Secretary (Institutions and Disabilities), Ministry of Social Welfare attended as the Special Guest. The meeting was presided by Dr Md. Mahbubur Rahman, Lead and Project Coordinator, Environmental Interventions Unit (EIU), Infectious Diseases Division (IDD), icddr,b.

Dewan Muhammad Shoaib, Senior Research Officer, EIU, IDD, icddr,b and Ms Salma Mahbub, General Secretary, B-Scan gave the presentation and moderated the question and answer session.

The Honourable State Minister, Ministry of Social Welfare, Government of Bangladesh, Md. Ashraf Ali Khan Khasru, MP, thanked icddr,b and B-Scan for taking this initiative. In his remark, he said, “The Government of Bangladesh is taking many initiatives for the betterment of the lives of people with disabilities, we always encourage this type of research. The more we work in the field level, the better we will understand the real scenario faced by persons with disabilities.”  

In her speech, Ms Shibani Bhattacharjee, Additional Secretary (Institutions and Disabilities), Ministry of Social Welfare said “Person with disabilities face many challenges, and this type of research is required to understand their condition. I hope the research findings will help us improve the lives of person with disabilities in Bangladesh.”

Major Mohammad Zahirul Islam (General member) B-Scan concluded the event and thanked the participants. National and international public health experts, representatives from DGHS, DPHE, icddr,b, and the media were also present at the seminar.

This assessment is part of a larger multi-country study led by icddr,b and being implemented in Kenya, Indonesia, Zambia, Sierra Leone and Bangladesh with funding and technical support from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). Mahbub-Ul Alam, Associate Scientist, icddr,b is the principal investigator of this study and B-SCAN, a voluntary organisation for persons with disabilities, is implementing this research in Bangladesh.


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