12 chapter 1: Disability and the community
Many people have suffered after being exposed to massive amounts of radiation.
This happened after accidents in nuclear power plants at Three Mile Island in the
USA in 1979, and at Chernobyl in the Ukraine in 1986. And it also happened
when the USA dropped nuclear bombs on Japan in 1945. These incidents caused
widespread destruction and death from exposure to radiation.
The people who survived these accidents and bombing attacks have suffered
mainly from cancers—either tumors in various parts of the body, especially in the
thyroid gland—or leukemia (cancer of the blood), all of which bring an early death.
In communities where these nuclear incidents happened, there has also been an
increase in the number of children born with learning difficulties, such as Down
Poor access to health care
Good health care can prevent many disabilities. Difficult labor and birth can cause
a baby to be born with a disability such as cerebral palsy. Trained birth attendants
who can identify risks and handle emergencies can prevent babies from being
born with many disabilities. Immunization can also prevent many disabilities. But
many times vaccines are not available, or people who are poor or live far from cities
cannot afford them, or there are not enough for everyone.
Some illnesses a pregnant woman may get can cause
physical or learning problems when her baby is born.
Illnesses that can cause birth defects include German
measles (rubella), which is a common cause of deafness
in newborn babies. There is a vaccine that gives protection
against rubella, but a woman who gets an immunization of
the rubella vaccine should not get pregnant for one month
Syphilis (see page 163), herpes (see page 165), and
HIV (see page 169) can also be passed from a mother to
her baby and can cause birth defects. So women need to
be tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections to
protect the baby developing in the womb.
If a woman gets German
measles (rubella) during the
first 3 months of pregnancy,
her child may be born deaf.
Some illnesses a baby or small child may get can also cause disability, such
as meningitis, polio, and measles. It is important for newborn babies to get
immunizations for protection (see page 276). Children who live in places where
leprosy (Hansen’s disease) is common need to be tested as early as possible.
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007