Saima Wazed Hossain, the Goodwill Ambassador of World Health Organization (WHO) for Autism in Southeast Asia Region, has shared good practices from Bangladesh with the international community in supporting children with autism and their families during the pandemic, including through targeted support measures and the use of ICT.
"The children with autism and their families suffered disproportionately due to disruptions in their education and therapeuticservices during the pandemic," she said.
The globally renowned champion for the cause of autism, however, said the existing social support system, strong ICT infrastructure and robust community-based health services in Bangladesh helped many families cope up with the challenges.
Saima Wazed, also the Chairperson of the National Advisory Committee on Autism and Neuro-developmental Disorder, Bangladesh, was speaking at a virtual roundtable held in New York recently, said a press release of the Bangladesh PR on Wednesday.
On the occasion of World Autism Awareness Day 2021, Bangladesh Permanent Mission along with the Permanent Missions of Brazil, Kuwait, Poland, Qatar and Korea, UN DESA and Autism Speaks organised the roundtable titled ‘Autism at the Covid-19 Pandemic: How Technology Can Support Equitable Global Response and Recovery’.
Referring to the increased awareness on autism, the WHO goodwill ambassador said during the last seven years, the National Advisory Committee on Autism in Bangladesh has worked together with various stakeholders, ministries and departments to mitigate the challenges and stigma faced by the persons with autism and other neuro-developmental disorders.
She referred to the social challenges and stigma that the families face in many societies, including Bangladesh, and highlighted how positive changes have been brought about in Bangladesh through sustained awareness-raising and information-sharing.The event was co-chaired by Ambassador Rabab Fatima, Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN, along with the Permanent Representative of Qatar.
In her welcome remarks, Ambassador Rabab Fatima thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her leadership and commitment to addressing the challenges of the persons with autism and also commended the endeavours undertaken by the government in this regard.
“In Bangladesh, we’ve put in place strong legislations and programmes to protect people with disabilities and neuro development disorders. And this includes support and learning centres across the country and other referral services, including disability inclusive e-services,” she said.
The Bangladesh envoy underscored the need for more investment in research and development of new technologies to support individuals with autism, especially during the pandemic. “We must bridge the digital divide so that technologies could be made available to and accessible by all regardless of their social or economic status.”
Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and International Affairs of UN DESA framed the issues at the event.
Along with Saima Wazed, other distinguished panelists from different parts of the world, including speakers with autism, spoke at the Roundtable Panel Discussion segment.
The virtual event was widely attended by people from all corners of the globe, including those with autism.