National Disability Inclusion Policy: the voice of hundreds of children with disabilities heard

The rights of children with disabilities are often underestimated and neglected despite the fact that they often live difficult daily lives and have specific needs, depending on the type(s) and level of their disability(ies).

Narindra Ranaivoson Andriambala
Un homme tenant un enfant debout devant une maison traditionnelle côtière
UNICEF Madagascar/2022/ Ranaivoson Andriambala
09 August 2022

The Social Policy section of UNICEF office in Madagascar is currently integrating among its evidence-generating activities the first Situation Analysis of Children with Disabilities in Madagascar. More than 600 children with disabilities and their parents spoke with regard to their daily challenges and their specific needs, depending on the type of disability so that they can be heard and fully and appropriately enjoy their rights, particularly related to the different social sectors.

This is the case of Eldino, 10 years old, living with a double congenital disability. He cannot walk or stand on his own (motor disability) and cannot articulate clearly (communication disability). Moreover, it is difficult for him to access quality education and appropriate health care services. Every day, his mother helps him to wash himself, feed himself… in addition to the household chores she is also responsible for. She also has to carry him on her back when moving, as they have no equipment adapted to the boy's disability.

In his town, a special school takes care of hundreds of disabled children. Some are enrolled in vocational training such as sewing, pottery, etc. Others follow a specific school programme according to their level of learning; Eldino is among them. In his class, he studies with children of all ages, living with different types of disabilities. According to his parents: “It is the best educational option for him instead of an inclusive class, since the teachers are properly trained. In addition, he is aware of his situation and the fact that he will not be able to adapt to “normal” teaching methods”. Indeed, despite having a certain ability to understand the lessons, he is unable to express himself and it is therefore difficult for teachers to assess his learning.

On the health side, Eldino benefits from specific rehabilitation for his motor disability in a specialized centre, but no treatment relating to his communication deficiency is provided to him. When he is sick and approaches a health centre, he receives no special treatment on account of his disabilities.

Furthermore, he does not benefit from any specific social service in view of his double disability. He does not enjoy any social protection measures from the government or other institutions; or even independent access to water, sanitation and hygiene. “We always give him drinks at home, and at school he drinks what the teacher gives him. There is also no suitable place where he can wash hands independently. With regard to the toilet, there is no one to help him to relieve himself when he is at school since he is neither independently mobile, nor able to speak to ask for assistance,” says his father.

Eldino is deprived of his rights as a child, in addition to his rights as a person living with disability. Thus, this first analysis will lead to several proposed strategies to strengthen the realization of the rights of children and adolescents with disabilities in Madagascar. These strategies may be specifically considered when establishing the National Disability Inclusion Policy in Madagascar.