World Down Syndrome Day

March 21st is World Down Syndrome day. Down Syndrome is observed on the 21st of the 3rd month to symbolize the triplication of the 21st chromosome. Down Syndrome, the most common chromosomal disease occurs between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 1,100 live births worldwide (WHO), and more often than not, Down Syndrome patients also show signs of a hearing deficit, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, among others.

The presence of these accompanying diseases or conditions present incredible financial and social challenges for the patient and their families. The direct and indirect costs of medicine, devices, treatments and transportation for caring a child with one or more disabilities are often ignored. For families who live below the poverty line, providing the support needed for children and adults with Down Syndrome to reach an optimal quality of life is challenging.

In Latin America, a shift towards inclusion and accessibility for people with disabilities began with the ratification of the 2007 Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) by 23 countries in the region. The CRPD is a United Nations international human rights treaty intended to promote, protect, and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities. By late 2012, 28 countries in LAC had signed the CRPD (UNICEF). However, ratification does not always translate into legislation, policies, programs and activities, and while the adoption of the CRPD is an important step, there is still much to be done to improve the quality of life of people with disabilities in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Days of recognition, like World Down Syndrome Day, afford the international community the opportunity to recognize not only the work that has been done for people with Down Syndrome and disabilities as a whole but also the work that still needs to be done. This year, Down Syndrome International’s theme “My Friends, My Community – the benefits of inclusive environments for today’s children and tomorrow’s adults,” aims to get the world talking about the benefits of inclusive environments. People with Down Syndrome must be able to enjoy full and equal rights. Discrimination and exclusion creates an environment in which children and adults with disabilities cannot integrate with their peers, and today is a day to work towards change.

By Ana Grammatica, TRF Program Reporting Officer