It is estimated that some 70.6 million people lived with some kind of disability in Latin America and the Caribbean between 2001 and 2013, which is equivalent to 12.5 % of the region's population, according to a report by the Statistical Conference of the Americas (SCA), a subsidiary body of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), which recommends that countries incorporate international guidelines into their statistical procedures on this topic.
The document, which is based on information provided by the national statistics offices in 17 Latin American states and 19 Caribbean countries and territories, was completed by a task force made up of Belize, Brazil, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic, and was presented on August 13 during the Thirteenth Meeting of the Executive Committee of the Conference, held at ECLAC's headquarters in Santiago, Chile.
This new estimate accounts for an additional 4.5 million people-with the total rising from 66.1 million to 70.6 million- compared to the information gathering period of 2010-2012, whose results were published in ECLAC's Social Panorama of Latin America 2012. The difference is due to several countries' inclusion of more recent statistical sources.
The authors analyze the main difficulties that countries face in gathering data, for example with the definition of disability adopted in these measurements or the characteristics of available sources, and they identify relevant factors for building comprehensive and high-quality information systems.
According to them, it is vital to carry out actions in order to strengthen and train organizations which are in charge of collecting data related to disability.
In addition, they indicate that only eight Latin American countries-Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and the Dominican Republic-and four Caribbean States or territories-Aruba, Guyana, Jamaica and Saint Lucia-apply the full set of international recommendations for measuring disabilities that has been drawn up by various bodies of the United Nations, which has a direct impact on the figures.
These recommendations are concentrated in a short questionnaire prepared by The Washington Group on Disability Statistics -which was created in the framework of the United Nations Statistical Commission-, in the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) of the World Health Organization, and in the guidelines and principles for the compilation of disability statistics.
In his latest message delivered on the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, which is observed every December 3, the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said that one billion people live with disabilities in the world and many of them lack equitable access to basic resources. Therefore, he called for making their situation more visible and breaking down barriers with the aim of advancing towards the construction of more inclusive societies.