Saturday, December 2, 2006

Report: Rate of disability among Israeli Arabs twice that of Jews

Last update - 23:06 02/12/2006

By Ruth Sinai, Haaretz Correspondent

A report published by JDC-Israel (Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) reveals that the rate of disability among the Israeli Arab population is twice as high as that among Israeli Jews.

The unprecedented report has been prepared ahead of the International Day of Disabled Persons which will take place on Sunday.

The report states that 1.4 percent of Israeli Arab children suffer from some form of a disability of the senses, as opposed to 0.7 percent of Jewish children. It also states that two percent of Israeli Arab children suffer from a physical disability, as opposed to 0.9 percent of Jewish children.

In the case of learning disabilities and emotional disabilities the rate among the Jewish children is higher, 4.3 percent as opposed to 2.9 percent among the Arab children. The authors of the report believe that this statistic does not reflect reality and attribute the anomaly to the fact that Arab children are simply not as readily diagnosed with learning or emotional disabilities.

The authors of the report were met with a general shortage of statistical data regarding Israel's Arab population, and therefore were forced to rely mainly on data regarding recipients of state disability pensions, as well as hospital records on the chronically ill.

The report finds that one percent more disability pensions are collected in predominantly Arab towns, as opposed to predominantly Jewish towns. The frequency of cancer is higher among Israeli Arabs with the exception of lung cancer which occurs more often only among Israeli Arab men, not women. Fourteen percent of the Israeli-Arab population suffers from diabetes, as opposed to eight percent of the Jewish population.

The report states that 44 percent of the Arab population reported suffering from some chronic illness or disability - double the rate reported in the Jewish population.

There are far less elderly people in the Arab community in comparison to the Jewish community. However, the elderly among the Arabs suffer more disabilities. Thirty percent of the Arab elderly are unable to perform daily tasks without assistance, as opposed to 14 percent of the Jewish elderly. One quarter of the Arab elderly are house-ridden, as opposed to 12 percent of the elderly Jews. The authors of the report attribute this gap to differences in genetics, nutrition, education, income, availability of health care and lifestyle.

The authors of the report explain that the relatively high incidence of disability among Israel's Arab population is due to intermarriage within families which is more common among the Arab population, child bearing relatively late in life among the Bedouin women, and a higher disability rate as a result of accidents.

The authors commend the growing awareness of special needs within the Arab community, and their tendency to incorporate the disabled into society. However, they describe the Arab community's treatment of the disabled as still somewhat tainted by prejudice and stigmas.

As a result of these findings, a four-plan to bolster the status of the disabled in the Arab community has been formulated.

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