The International Day of Persons with Disabilities was marked earlier this month by a roundtable discussion in the Southern Sudanese capital of Juba, and a landmark meeting in the national capital of Khartoum between officials of the National Elections Commission (NEC) and a delegation representing organizations of disabled people.
Supported by the UNMIS Human Rights office, the 3 December roundtable at the Juba Bridge Hotel drew participants from six associations representing disabled people as well as regional and state government officials, religious groups and non-governmental organizations.
Nathan Wojia Pitia of the Government of Southern Sudan's Ministry of Gender, Social and Religious Affairs said that artificial limbs have been supplied to 600 people since the beginning of this year, adding that the ministry produces on average 40 prosthetics each month to help the disabled.
Dut Acuek Lual of the Southern Sudan War Disabled, Widows and Orphans Commission said the body had worked with the GoSS ministry and the International Committee of the Red Cross to rehabilitate over 3,600 disabled persons.
To date, 143 countries have ratified the international Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Sudan formally endorsed last April.
But as the proceedings of the roundtable revealed, many disabled Sudanese still face significant obstacles and even discrimination.
A reporter for Southern Sudan TV told the gathering he was prevented from keeping a recent appointment with a government official because a security officer refused to believe that a disabled person like himself could be granted access to such an official.
In a written statement presented to senior NEC officials on 2 December, representatives of disabled Sudanese complained of voter registration centres that proved to be inaccessible to some of their constituents.
"We encourage the NEC to undertake a number of administrative measures to ensure the electoral rights of disabled citizens," said Hamid Mohamed Modalal of the National Union for Persons with Disabilities.
The meeting was facilitated by the UNMIS Electoral Assistance Division, which has been providing technical support and advice to the NEC since its formation over a year ago.
NEC officials later issued instructions to staff members urging them to bear in mind the special needs of eligible voters who have disabilities ahead of national elections scheduled for next April.
The NEC also pledged to organize the training of disabled people as accredited observers of the 2010 balloting.
Up to 20 per cent of Sudan's estimated population of 40 million is believed to suffer from some type of disability.