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New York, 30 May 2013: Flagship report urges seeing the child - before the disability

© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-1196/Asselin
Boys play football at the Nimba Centre in Conakry, Guinea. The centre provides educational and vocational training for people with physical disabilities, including those caused by polio, to help them reintegrate into the community.

By Chris Niles

Like all children, those with disabilities have many abilities, but are often excluded from society by discrimination and lack of support, leaving them among the most invisible and vulnerable children in the world.

Today, UNICEF launched its flagship report The State of the World’s Children 2013: Children with Disabilities. The report brings global attention to the urgent needs of a largely invisible population.

NEW YORK, 30 May 2013 – Children with disabilities have a much greater role to play in societies, according to UNICEF’s annual The State of the World’s Children report.

This year, UNICEF’s flagship publication highlights not just the challenges of the estimated tens of millions of children who live with disabilities, but also the contributions they can make, if allowed to achieve their ambitions. It says that concentrating on abilities rather than disabilities would benefit society as a whole.

“When you see the disability before the child, it is not only wrong for the child, but it deprives society of all that child has to offer,” says UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “Their loss is society’s loss; their gain is society’s gain.”


UNICEF correspondent Chris Niles reports on this year's The State of the World's Children report.  Watch in RealPlayer

Among the most marginalized, most at risk

Children with disabilities are among the most marginalized. For example, children living in poverty are among the least likely to have education and healthcare, but children who live in poverty and have disabilities are even less likely to attend their local school or visit their local clinic.

And they are among the most at risk of abuse and neglect, particularly if they are institutionalized.

Girls with disabilities are less likely than boys to receive food and care.

Must be counted, to count

The report says that marginalization often begins at birth, which too often goes unregistered. If children are not recognized officially, they are cut off from healthcare, education and opportunity.

“For children with disabilities to count, they must be counted – at birth, at school and in life,” says Mr. Lake.

Children with disabilities must be included

The State of the World’s Children 2013: Children with Disabilities, which was launched today in Viet Nam, issues nine recommendations to bolster international commitment to ensuring that children with disabilities live full, productive lives and are given the chance to make their contribution to society.

It says that greater efforts to include children with disabilities – for instance by mainstreaming them in education – would tackle the discrimination that pushes them to the margins.

Political will, need for data

Mobilizing political will is critical. The report recommends that all nations ratify and implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

So far, about one third of all nations have failed to ratify the treaty.

Part of the challenge of meeting the needs of children with disabilities is that few governments have accurate data. The report calls for a concerted global research agenda.

“Typically, reports of a global nature start with some telling statistic, some sort of epidemiological statistic,” says The State of the World’s Children editor Abid Aslam. “Well, the first thing that we discovered is that nobody really knows how many children there are with disabilities in the world.”

But, he adds, there is no need to wait for more information before finding solutions.

Everyone has a role to play

The report urges communities to fight the discrimination and barriers that prevent children with disabilities from fully participating in public life. It encourages communities to include children with disabilities in decisions that affect them – not just as beneficiaries, but as agents of change.

It says every body has a role to play in reducing discrimination, from governments, which create inclusive infrastructure and legal and social protections, to communities – and to the private sector, which can do more to embrace diversity, particularly in hiring processes.

“The path ahead is challenging,” says Mr. Lake. “But, children do not accept unnecessary limits. Neither should we.”

 

 
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