Saturday, December 01, 2007

Qatar Leads World Autism Awareness Day Initiative

Map: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

As reported in the Gulf Times, the move to have the UN General Assembly declare April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day is being led by Qatar. The UN Human Rights Committee has already adopted the resolution which was co-sponsored by 50 countries and is expected to to be adopted by the 192-nation UN General Assembly early this month.

Qatar’s UN ambassador Nassir al-Nasser said at the UN Office in New York on Tuesday that HH the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, and his wife HH Sheikha Mozah Nasser al-Misnad, took the initiative because of the high rate of autism in children in all regions of the world.

“HH Sheikha Mozah has made tremendous efforts to change the way the Qatari society views people with disability, and breaking the barrier of shame, of which this group and their families have been suffering,” he stated.

The draft resolution designates every April 2 as World Autism Awareness Day and asks all countries, UN bodies, international organisations and non-governmental groups to help raise autism awareness. The resolution describes autism as “a lifelong developmental disability that manifests itself during the first three years of life and results from a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain.”

Autism Speaks has been actively supportive of the resolution and is sponsoring an epidemiological study to measure the scale of the global autism epidemic, working with more than 20 countries to collect and share data that could help in deciding policies and research into causes, diagnosis and treatment. Bob Wright of Autism Speaks stressed the importance of a unified global effort to deal with the world autism crisis:

"The resolution’s call for action and observances on April 2 will bring autism organisations from all around the world together “in a single voice to fight this terrible disorder,” said Wright.

“By bringing autism awareness to a global level, we’ll give it a voice to the millions of children worldwide who are undiagnosed, misunderstood, abused and looking for help,” he added."

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