International focus on children with disabilities
My Wednesday blog post series focuses on Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. But today I want to digress slightly and take a moment to go global. Why? Because this year, UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2013 report focuses on Children with Disabilities.
It is very hard to estimate how many children around the world have disabilities. One rough statistic estimates that 93 million children, or 1 in 20 children age 14 or younger, live with a moderate to severe disability of some kind. These numbers are staggering. For every child with a disability, there is a family and community that are also affected. The ramifications of a disability can be long lasting and often devastating. This is the sad news.
The better news is that this year, UNICEF’s recent report examines how children with disabilities are faring around the globe and offers recommendations to help improve their lives.
What are some of the problems?
In many countries, children with disabilities do not have the same rights and opportunities as children who are not disabled, nor do they receive the same level of education and health care as non-disabled children. Many children with disabilities are often abused or neglected. A lack of understanding and resources contributes to the institutionalization of many children who would be better off remaining with their families and receiving care within their communities. This video of the experiences of Cara, a UNICEF worker in Haiti, shows the serious situation of many children with disabilities.
Especially important is the need for children with disabilities to be educated alongside children without disabilities, so that they may reach their full potential. By including children with disabilities in school with children who are not disabled, they are given opportunities that are critical for their success to become the best that they can be.
What is being done?
UNICEF reports that through an international commitment to build more inclusive societies, children with disabilities will have the same access to services, support and opportunities as their non-disabled peers. In order for these changes to occur, it is necessary to first enhance awareness of disability among the general public. Then, barriers to school, health facilities, public transportation, and other obstacles can be removed.
The report emphasizes the importance of including the children themselves, as well as their families, in assessing their special needs, so that their communities can best learn how to support them. Along these lines is the effort to reduce or end institutionalization of children with disabilities by promoting family-based care and “community-based rehabilitation.”
What does the future hold?
As Cara clearly demonstrates in the video mentioned above, individuals with disabilities may also possess great strengths and abilities. In the right environment, a child with special needs may flourish. This report encourages global conversations about the state of children with special needs, around the world. To quote the UNICEF report, “the future is far from grim.”
Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.
Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started on January 16, 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Feel free to go back to look at prior posts as the series builds on itself. As always, we welcome your comments and input.
Photo credit: © UNICEF/NYHQ2007-0745/Noorani