UNICEF Executive Director remarks at the Global Disability Summit, as prepared

24 July 2018
A girl on crutches, Syria
UNICEF Syrian Arab Republic/2016/Al-Issa
Saja, 12, fled the fighting in Aleppo with her family, and they are now looking for temporary shelter. She lost her four best friends in a bomb attack over two years ago. She also lost her leg in the attack.


LONDON, 24 July 2018 – As prepared remarks by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore at the Global Disability Summit, co-hosted by the UK Government, Government of Kenya and International Disability Alliance.

Inclusive education:

“About half of all children who live with disabilities do not go to school – because of prejudice, stigma, or lack of accessible learning. About half that do go to school are not receiving a quality education. They lack trained teachers, accessible facilities, or specialized learning tools.   

“This is a tragic waste of potential – for these children and for their societies and economies. One estimate finds that excluding children with disabilities from education can cost a country between one and five per cent of its GDP due to lost potential income.  

“As a global community, we will not achieve SDG 4 – education for all – if we continue failing these children. Not just getting them into school, but improving the quality of their education.  

“Which is why UNICEF will work with our partners to enable an additional 30 million children with disabilities gain an education by 2030.  

“To meet this target, we’re working in 142 countries to build more inclusive and accessible education systems.  

“Over the next three years, we will intensify our efforts in three key areas.  

  • First – we’ll work to strengthen data on children with disabilities.  
  • Second – we’ll work with governments to make sure that national laws and policies meet the needs of children with disabilities.  
  • And third – we’ll explore new innovations to help children with disabilities achieve their learning goals.  

“This Summit is an opportunity to translate our commitment to children with disabilities into a reality around the world, no matter where they live.” 


Assistive technology: 

“The Global Partnership for Assistive Technology is an important opportunity to gather the world around a common mission: to provide life-changing assistive technology to 500 million people globally by 2030. An ambitious goal – but an achievable one.  

“Assistive technology like wheelchairs, prosthetics, hearing aids and glasses give people with disabilities the chance to overcome barriers and demonstrate what they can do, rather than what they cannot.  

“For children with disabilities, these technologies help them see themselves, from an early age, as able – able to do the things they want to do. Move. Play. See. Hear. Interact. Learn. Communicate. But in many low-income countries, only 5-15 per cent of those who need assistive technology are able to obtain it. Uncoordinated investment, ineffective policies, inadequate data, and public stigma, among many other factors, limit current supply and demand. 

“Increasing the availability of assistive technologies depends on galvanizing investment in this sector – investments in quality, affordable products and efficient service delivery systems.  

“UNICEF has been working in development and humanitarian contexts alike to help children acquire this technology. This includes direct provision of assistive devices to children and it includes support for larger-scale, national programmes such as the Philippine government’s national insurance benefit package. 

“As a proud member of the new Global Partnership, we look forward to offering our experience and expertise – from procurement to delivery to data-collection and analysis – and working with partners to support millions of persons with disabilities realise their full potential through the promise of assistive technologies.” 


Children with disabilities in humanitarian crises: 

“When living through conflict or disaster, children with disabilities face a double disadvantage. They live with the same dangers as all children in emergencies do – violence, threats to their health and safety, hunger, risk of abuse, loss of education.    

“But they can also face unique challenges – including lack of mobility because of shattered infrastructure, difficulty fleeing harm and the prejudices that keep them from accessing the urgent assistance they need.  

“With the recent dramatic increase in both number and intensity of conflicts and natural disasters, we must find new ways to support these young futures. Over the last four years, the number of UNICEF’s Country Offices supporting children with disabilities in emergency contexts has increased more than five-fold. And driven by the growing needs, we are committed to including children with disabilities in our humanitarian action plans in 35 countries by 2021. 

“As we continue this work, we are also focused on scaling-up efforts in three key areas:  

  • First – We need better data on the needs and specific requirements of children with disabilities. 
  • Second – We will continue designing and delivering unique and innovative interventions tailored to the specific needs of children with disabilities. 
  • And third – We will continue training UNICEF staff and partners to include disability across our humanitarian programmes. 

Throughout, as we design these programmes and services, we must work closely with the experts – people with disabilities themselves, to determine how best to serve their needs. Their experiences and input – as well as that of expert partners like the International Disability Alliance – is critical in designing practical solutions.  

“Every child in an emergency deserves support – including children with disabilities.” 

Media contacts

Georgina Diallo
UNICEF Europe and Central Asia
Tel: +1 917 238 1559


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.

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