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Malawi, 6 June 2013: See the child - before the disability, MODEA and UNICEF says

Inclusion of children with disabilities benefits society as a whole

Lilongwe, Malawi. 6 June 2013 – Children with disabilities and their communities would both benefit if society focused on what those children can achieve, rather than what they cannot do, according to two new reports launched today.

Both the Ministry of Disability and Elderly Affairs and UNICEF Malawi released reports today stressing that concentrating on the abilities and potential of children with disabilities would create benefits for society as a whole.

The guest of honour at the launch, Honourable Minister for Disability and Elderly Affairs, Mrs Reen Kachere stressed the need to develop programmes that are inclusive of the needs of children with disabilities.

“ I wish to appeal to all stakeholders undertaking different programmes and providing social services in the country to make sure that their programmes and services are inclusive of disability, and more specific children with disability issues. This means that when developing and reviewing our policies, programmes and plans they have to include strategies, activities and indicators addressing issues of children with disabilities.” 

The Ministry report – ‘From exclusion to inclusion: promoting the rights of children with disabilities in Malawi’ – paints a mixed picture in the country. Whilst some children do have access to learning and participation opportunities, through initiatives such as the inclusive education policy still more are excluded from accessing formal education or accessing even basic health services due to family, societal or even attitudinal barriers.

One of the children who participated in the study, Chiyanjano Maseleka, age 18, from Lilongwe Girls Secondary School, said:

‘Most children with disabilities are kept hidden away in the villages and are not allowed to go to school. Many are laughed at by their own friends.’

The report, supported by UNICEF Malawi, gives many recommendations, among them launching a sustained public awareness campaign to break down societal and attitudinal barriers to inclusion of children with disabilities. It also recommends a review of all data gathering mechanisms in the country, to ensure that people with disabilities, especially children, are being counted and their voices heard.

In her speech, the Minister stressed the need to take the study findings and recommendations seriously:

“…my appeal to all Government Ministries and Departments that the study findings in this report are crucial as they will provide us with a baseline to assist us in the development of effective programmes and planning of activities and services for children with disabilities in Malawi. My call is for all of us to study the report and recommendations and come up with appropriate programmes that will promote the rights of children with disabilities.”

Launched on the same occasion, UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2013 report looking at the situation of children with disabilities worldwide, emphasised the need for improved data gathering and public awareness.

For many children with disabilities, exclusion begins in the first days of life with their birth going unregistered. Lacking official recognition, they are cut off from the social services and legal protections that are crucial to their survival and prospects. Their marginalization only increases with discrimination. 

“For children with disabilities to count, they must be counted – at birth, at school and in life,” said Mr.Tony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, at the launch of the global report.

The State of the World’s Children 2013: Children with Disabilitiessays that worldwide children with disabilities are the least likely to receive health care or go to school. They are among the most vulnerable to violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect, particularly if they are hidden or put in institutions – as many are because of social stigma or the economic cost of raising them.

Gender is a key factor, as girls with disabilities are less likely than boys to receive food and care. 

Discrimination on the grounds of disability is a form of oppression,” the report says, noting that multiple deprivations lead to even greater exclusion for many children with disabilities.

Speaking at the launch, UNICEF Malawi Country Representative, Mr Mahimbo Mdoe, stressed the importance of inclusion to be embraced not just in words, but in actions,

‘ We must remember that seeing the disability before we see the child, not only limits the chances of that child, but also our chances as a society to realise the full potential of our citizens. As we have heard today, these children have opinions and views that we need to hear, and we must strive to remove the obstacles that prevent their full participation.’

Concentrating on the abilities and potential of children with disabilities would create benefits for society as a whole, says UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report. The report lays out how societies can include children with disabilities because when they play a full part in society, everyone benefits. For instance, inclusive education broadens the horizons of all children even as it presents opportunities for children with disabilities to fulfil their ambitions.

The report also emphasizes the importance of involving children and adolescents with disabilities by consulting them on the design and evaluation of programmes and services for them. And everyone benefits when inclusive approaches include accessibility and universal design of environments to be used by all to the greatest extent possible without the need for adaptation.

"The path ahead is challenging," said Mr. Lake. "But children do not accept unnecessary limits. Neither should we."

For more information and copies of the full report, contact:
Joshua Mkwehiwa, Ministry of Disability and Elderly Affairs, Lilongwe, +265 999 429 098 or or you can access it on the Government website:

For information on UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report, please contact:
Angela Travis, Chief of Communication + External Relations, UNICEF Malawi, +265 +265 999 964 208

Read UNICEF’s The State of the World's Children 2013: Children with Disabilities and see additional multimedia material, or broadcasters, b-roll /video is available

Read the speech of the UNICEF Representative at the launch event of the Malawi Situation Analysis on Children with Disabilities, and the SOWC 2013 [PDF]



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