The Asia Foundation Releases the 2019 Model Disability Survey of Afghanistan

Kabul, May 14, 2020 — A  groundbreaking household survey released by The Asia Foundation—the Model Disability Survey of Afghanistan (MDSA)—provides a comprehensive national portrait of Afghans living with disabilities. The first national survey of the Afghan population on disabilities conducted in 15 years, the MDSA’s findings reflect several health and development successes, and identify continuing key challenges in Afghanistan, prior to the emergence of the COVID-19 global pandemic. With fieldwork completed in Spring 2019, the MDSA represents the most rigorous implementation of the World Bank and World Health Organization’s Model Disability Survey tool, incorporating national and regional data critical to understanding the experiences of the range of individuals living with disabilities in Afghanistan. These findings are an important contribution to inform future needs assessments, healthcare programming, advocacy and policymaking in Afghanistan.

Impacted by war, social stigma, lack of education, and employment opportunities, Afghanistan’s disabled populations are some of the most vulnerable nationwide; yet current data on how many, who they are, their locations and living conditions, and challenges and support they require was not available until now.

The MDSA is a complex survey utilizing multi-stage sampling administered to adults and children. Nearly 14,300 households surveyed, representing over 111,640 Afghans across the country. Implemented with technical support from the World Health Organization, MDSA provides invaluable and timely data that demonstrates the scope of the problem in Afghanistan with almost 80% of adults aged 18+ experiencing some form of physical, functional, sensorial, or other disability (24.6% mild, 40.4% moderate, and 13.9% severe). Among children aged 2–17 years, the overall figure is 17.3%.

Since 2005, current disability rates have increased precipitously putting Afghanistan in an unprecedented territory of health crisis. With national and regional representativity, data from this survey will be used for dialogue, planning, and action for disabled populations.

“Afghanistan has taken great strides in its commitment to advancing the rights of persons with disabilities through adopting key international instruments and national laws and policies. The MDSA offers rich empirical data and analysis essential to decision making and policy formulation, providing further insights into areas targeting efficiency and streamlining impact. This data is also a roadmap for nationwide and cross sectoral campaigns to encourage awareness, education, de-stigmatization, and acceptance of disabilities in government institutions, civil society, and the private sector,” said Abdullah Ahmadzai, Country Representative in Afghanistan.

The Foundation wishes to express gratitude to the WHO for its technical support in ensuring reliable and credible data assuring the global standards and comparability to other implementations of the MDS instrument.

For in-depth analysis, please refer to the full report, FAQ, and InAsia blog.

The survey is made possible by the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The Asia Foundation is a nonprofit international development organization committed to improving lives across a dynamic and developing Asia. Informed by six decades of experience and deep local expertise, our work across the region addresses five overarching goals—strengthen governance, empower women, expand economic opportunity, increase environmental resilience, and promote regional cooperation.

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