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Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse

New report says children with disabilities in Eastern Europe often face a bleak existence

© UNICEF/SWZK00560/ Pirozzi
Manager Nicolae Besliu joins a birthday party at the UNICEF-assisted Botanica Centre for children with disabilities in Moldova.

NEW YORK, 5 October 2005 – According to a new report released today by UNICEF, children with disabilities who live in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS) often face a bleak existence behind institutional walls, isolated from their families and communities, and suffering from stigma and discrimination.

The report – ‘Children and Disability in Transition in CEE/CIS’, produced by UNICEF’s Innocenti Research Centre – also finds that the numbers of registered children with disabilities are on the rise in the region since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The total number of children with disabilities in the 27 countries considered in the report has tripled – from about 500,000 in 1990 to 1.5 million in 2000. An additional 1 million children with disabilities are thought to go unregistered.

© UNICEF/SWZK00294/ Pirozzi
Azerbaijan 2004: Brothers Abid, 5, and Sahil, 9, play and learn together at the Development Centre for Children with Disabilities in Sumgayit, Azerbaijan.

The practice of placing children with disabilities in institutions is decades old and still continues. By 2002, some 317,000 children with disabilities were living in residential institutions in the region.

“Although children with disabilities have become more visible since the beginning of transition and attitudes towards them and their families are changing, many of them remain simply ‘written off’ by society,” said Marta Santos Pais, Director of the Innocenti Research Centre (IRC).

“Yet, as called for by UNICEF, every child has the right to grow up in a family environment and in conditions that ensure respect for their dignity, promote self-reliance and active participation in social life.”

© UNICEF/SWZK00259/Pirozzi
David, 4, plays with an abacus at Inclusive Education Kindergarten Number 16 in Tbilisi, Georgia. David has cerebral paralysis. The kindergarten aims to give children with disabilities a good start on an education.

Empowering parents and communities

The report also finds that families who have children with disabilities are often poor. When social and medical services appropriate for children with disabilities are unavailable, parents tend to view institutionalization as the only viable option for these children.

“Giving parents and communities the power to make their own decisions is, in itself, a valuable contribution to consolidate democracy in this region,” said Maria Calivis, Regional Director for UNICEF CEE/CIS region. “It means giving a voice to those most directly affected, backed by the necessary decentralized, local resources.”

The report acknowledges that the region has made some progress on protecting the rights of children with disabilities. There are indications of a change in societal attitudes towards disability. Most countries now have legislation in place to address the reality of these children and more children are being integrated into society. But, according to UNICEF, there is still a long way to go.



View OneMinutesJr films from CEE/CIS

These films are the product of a UNICEF supported film workshop for young people in Eastern Europe in May 2005. The young filmmakers produced 18 OneMinutesJr films.

These are just some of the OneMinutesJr Awards (November 2005 in Amsterdam, NL). The following films are about children with disabilities.

Leave no child out
by Orkhan Isayev, Azerbaijan

by Anya Dyomina, Uzbekistan

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