Bangladesh proposes autism support at UN

New York, Nov 20 (bdnews24.com) — Bangladesh on Monday officially tabled a proposal at the United Nations to rally nations from around the world to support autism.

The UN held a special meeting at its headquarters on Monday evening where this proposal for providing socio-economic assistance to families of autistic children was raised.

The meeting was presided over by Bangladesh’s Permanent Representative to UN AK Abdul Momen. President of UN’s ongoing General Assembly Vuk Jeremic was also present.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s daughter Sheikh Saima Hussain Putul, who is also the Chairperson of National Advisory Committee of Global Autism Public Health Initiative in Bangladesh, floated the proposal and sought cooperation from all.

Those who spoke at the meeting include Special Assistant to UN Secretary General Shamshad Akhtar, ECOSOC’s Senior Vice President Luis Alfonso de Alba, World Health Organisation’s Executive Director Dr Jacob Kumaresan and ‘Autism Speaks’ Founders Bob and Suzanne Wright, and Philippines Permanent Representative to UN Libran Cabactulan.

Autism is characterised by varying degrees of impairment in communication skills and social interactions and in restricted, repetitive behaviour.

Currently one in every 88 people in the US suffers from autism while 70 million people around the world are living with it. But international organisations, including WHO, do not offer any financial support to cope with it.

The meeting asked all UN members to respond to the timely call of Bangladesh. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s speech was read out by Shamshad Akhtar as Ban had to travel to the Middle-East.

It noted that there was much work ahead to ensure that the needs of persons with autism are addressed in health, education and other systems.

“What is understood in principle is not always carried out in practice,” Ban said. “The talents and needs of children, adolescents and adults with autism and their families must be recognised by providing them with early intervention therapies and adequate education to facilitate their participation in our communities and enhance their employment opportunities.”

“Let us work together to give due consideration to mental health, including autism and other developmental disorders, as we prepare for the High-level Meeting on Disability and Development in 2013, and as we engage in discussions related to the post-2015 development agenda.”

Vuk Jeremic said there was more to be done to close an “awareness gap” in terms of developing countries’ knowledge of autism and how to treat the condition.

“Whilst it is clear that knowledge is growing in certain parts of the world, the same cannot be said for many developing countries. I strongly believe that we need to act on this awareness gap.”

Jeremic added that a high level meeting will be held before the next General Assembly to discuss issues relating to various disabilities, and appointments will be made to monitor the matter regularly.

He drew attention of all member states to the topic in terms of constituting a fund to help fight autism.

Putul said every 15 minutes a person is diagnosed with autism; that every year more children are diagnosed with autism than with AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined.

She said her last two years’ efforts in Bangladesh made her realise that in order to fully address the needs of those with neuro-developmental disorders such as autism there needs to be a multi-faceted, comprehensive and integrated approach.

Ambassador Momen said support of 129 countries is required for having the proposal accepted at UN.

Countries like US, Russia, Mexico, 27 countries of European Union, nine Caribbean countries and eight countries from South Asia became co-sponsors to the proposal.

Source: Bd News24

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