2023 International Day of Persons with Disabilities: We must commit to ending all barriers for children and youth with disabilities

By Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF representative in Lebanon.

03 December 2023

Children and youth with disabilities are among the most marginalized people in every society. In Lebanon, the already formidable challenges they face have been exacerbated by the devastating socio-economic crisis that has plunged numerous families into poverty.

As we mark the International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, let us all commit to tackling the stigma, discrimination and neglect that children and youth with disabilities face, and to ensuring they have access to disability inclusive education, services, support and the inclusive social protection they need to reach their full potential.

Children and youth with disabilities, particularly girls, are 3 to 4 times more likely to experience violence, abuse and neglect than others their age. They are particularly vulnerable in emergency situations, when they face increased challenges in accessing inclusive protection, aid and education. The greatest barrier they face is not the disability as the discrimination and barriers they face.

This is particularly critical in Lebanon, a country whose social protection system is fragmented with very limited coverage especially for people with disabilities and where the multi-faceted crisis has left most families struggling to survive, with severe repercussions for the estimated 300,000 children and youth with disabilities.

Only 1 per cent of children with disabilities in Lebanon are enrolled in public schools. Robbed of their right to learn, they will face formidable challenges in accessing the workforce – and helping shape decisions that most affect them.

UNICEF has taken up these challenges to ensure the realization of rights of all children and youth with disabilities.

UNICEF, in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) and Organizations of People with Disabilities(OPDS), supported the development of the National Policy on Inclusive Education for Children with Special Needs in partnership with the European Union and ECW, to ensure that all children share the same classrooms, fostering genuine learning opportunities for those historically marginalized.

UNICEF jointly with the Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA), ILO and the European Union has also supported in strengthening a disability-inclusive national social protection system and in launching the National Disability Allowance (NDA), which provides direct income support to  youth with disabilities.

But far more needs to be done to ensure children and youth and girls with disabilities grow up healthy, empowered, protected from harm and engaged in their communities.

Inclusion does not magically happen; it is indeed an intentional process of social transformation. Ensuring children and youth with disabilities enjoy the same rights to which all children are entitled requires planning for disability inclusion at all levels of society.

Under the leadership of MOSA, we are addressing stigma and discrimination while adopting and implementing inclusive policies and programmes to ensure children and youth with disabilities have access to all the support and inclusive services, they need particularly social protection.

Disability inclusion starts with me, with you, and all structures of society, including the adoption and implementation of policies and laws. To demonstrate this commitment to inclusion, it is now the time that Lebanon revises its laws to be in line with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) – given that in 2022 the Lebanese Parliament adopted a law authorizing the Government to proceed with the ratification of the Convention and its Optional Protocol.

It is crucial that decision-makers throughout Lebanon prioritize the core values of inclusivity, diversity, and equal opportunity. Through a concerted focus on enhancing accessibility, education, employment, social support, we can chart a course toward a more promising and inclusive future for every child in Lebanon, irrespective of their abilities.

Media contacts

Christophe Boulierac
Chief of Communications
United Nations Children’s Fund Lebanon
Blanche Baz
Communication Specialist
United Nations Children’s Fund Lebanon


UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit www.unicef.org/lebanon/.

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