Children with disabilities

Access for all, no matter what

Disability boy
UNICEF Laos/2017/Saykoson

Challenges

There is limited information on the number and status of children with disability in Lao PDR due to the lack of a data collection system. The 2017 LSIS II data indicates that 2% of children aged 2 to 4 have functional difficulty in at least one domain (seeing, hearing, walking, fine motor, communicating, learning, playing, controlling behaviour). In rural areas without road, 3.8% of children have functional difficulty in at least one domain. There are disparities between the North (1.7%) and the South (4.3%). In the Sekong province, the percentage increases up to 22%.

The causes of child disability in Lao PDR are mostly injury, pregnancy and birth outcomes, childhood illnesses, and unexploded ordnances (UXOs).

Children with disabilities are at greater risk of maltreatment, violence, abuse and exploitation than their non-disabled peers.  Physical inaccessibility of facilities, distance and poverty are key barriers that limit their access to services in education, health and welfare. 

Despite increased Government efforts to improve the situation of children with disabilities, including ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the promulgation of national laws and legislations in this regard, huge challenges remain in translating policies and laws for children with disabilities into practice at the community level.

Children with severe disabilities are usually kept at home, and often ‘hidden’ to the outside world, due to stigma and discrimination. In 2007-2008, only four per cent of all school-aged children with disabilities were enrolled in any type of school or educational programme. Socio-economic factors such as gender, ethnicity, poverty and distance to schools play a large part in determining the length of time a child with a disability will stay in school. Physical access to school buildings and bathroom facilities constitute other barriers for children’s educational attainment. 

Solutions

With funding from Australia, UNICEF Lao PDR is supporting the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare and the National Committee for Disabled Persons (NCDP) to pilot a community-based child protection service model for preventing and responding to violence, abuse and exploitation of children with disability in Savannakhet and Xiengkhouang provinces. Major approaches include:

  1. Advocate / raise awareness about the rights of children with disabilities across all sectors and levels of society to promote social inclusion and reduce discrimination against children with disabilities.   
  2. Establish a bottom-up data collection mechanism for children with disabilities in 2 provinces.
  3. Collaborate with DPOs in piloting multi-sectoral community-based services for early screening, referral and case management.
  4. Capacity building for family members and professionals working with children on knowledge and skills to support children with disabilities.