United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today appealed for better access and equality to health services for persons with Down syndrome.
“Too often, persons with disabilities – including those with Down syndrome – face stigma, discrimination and exclusion,” said Mr. Ban in a message for World Down Syndrome Day, observed on 21 March, with a special focus this year on “Health and Wellbeing: Access and Equality for All.”
“The lack of full and equal participation of those with Down syndrome affects not only individuals and their families, but society at large,” the Secretary-General stressed.
Down syndrome is caused by extra genetic material in chromosome 21. It affects mental and physical development and can also lead to conditions including heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and leukaemia.
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that incidence of Down syndrome is between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 1,100 live births worldwide, and that each year, approximately 3,000 to 5,000 children are born with this chromosome disorder.
Mr. Ban noted that “for children and adults with Down syndrome, equal access to health services is critical to their empowerment and full participation.”
This was acknowledged by Member States at last year’s High-level General Assembly Meeting on Disability and Development, and is in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which reaffirms that such persons, including those with Down syndrome, are entitled to human rights on an equal basis with others.
“The emerging post-2015 global development agenda offers a vital opportunity to build a life of dignity for all,” concluded the UN chief, as he called for “concrete action towards the inclusion of all persons with disabilities, including those with Down syndrome.”