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Study looks at disability care

A lack of knowledge about disability and maternal health among health care providers in rural communities is preventing children with intellectual disabilities from receiving proper treatment, according to a new report.

A report released yesterday by NGO New Humanity, which surveyed families of children with intellectual disabilities in Kampong Chhnang province’s Boribor district, found that of 53 parents who had sought treatment for their children, 51 percent said their health providers were unable to identify their child’s disability.

New Humanity country director Hervé Roqueplan said yesterday that typical treatments, such as vitamins or paracetamol, did little to improve the childrens’ conditions.

In many areas, health care providers simply do not have the capacity to diagnose intellectual disabilities, said René Ayala Moreira, Assistant Director and Research Team Leader at New Humanity.

“When people try to look for help [for their children], they feel helpless and they go to public hospitals and the doctors say, ‘Just take this [medicine],’” he said.

Chum Sara, 27, of Boribor district, said she had long faced difficulty in caring for her 5-year-old intellectually disabled son.

“Before, I didn’t want to take care of him because it is difficult, but because I am a mother, I have to love my children,” she said.

New Humanity recommended that health care providers receive training on maternity care and intellectual disabilities, and that the government and NGOs develop knowledge of disability among healers in rural communities. The group also recommended that local health care providers learn to identify such disabilities and refer children to the appropriate specialised facility.

Sem Sokha, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said yesterday that the government had created a law and several sub-decrees defending the rights of disabled people, though he acknowledged that “we still face obstacles such as human resources and funding”.

Pieter van Maaren, country director for the World Health Organisation, said yesterday that there were few facilities for intellectually disabled children.

“In a country where the health system is developing, the priorities are not often in the area of intellectual disability,” he said.

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