The government’s Disability Action Council (DAC) on Monday announced that it would be including speech therapy in its strategic plan for the next four years to address the problem of speech and swallowing disorders.
DAC Secretary-General Em Chan Makara said the decision comes after research, conducted by the Capacity Building of People with a Disability in the Community Organization (Cabdico), found that communication and swallowing disorders affect an estimated 536,000 people in Cambodia.
Speech therapy can also help people with cognitive impairments, epilepsy and learning difficulties, meaning that about 600,000 people in total could benefit, Mr. Chan Makara told a workshop in Phnom Penh on Monday.
“The people who have difficulties speaking, communicating are being challenged by discrimination,” Mr. Chan Makara said. “This issue I will bring up to the Disability Action Council to include in the national strategic plan for 2014 to 2018, which has been planned to be enforced by early 2014.
DAC will also “encourage speech therapy as part of the [university] curriculum and encourage the ministries of health, education and social affairs to improve conditions for people with speech problems.”
The purpose of the workshop, which continues today, is to teach government officials, NGO workers and educators more about speech and swallowing disorders, which can be serious if left untreated.
Weh Yeoh, a consultant with Cabdico, said the workshop highlighted four areas that need addressing.
“The four problems are that there is no [government] policy on the topic of speech therapy, no community awareness of their needs, no identification or referral for people who need the services and no in-country place for teaching local speech therapists,” Mr. Yeoh said.
“The main thing is that there is a common recognition of the problem and there needs to be something done about it.”