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Child protection from violence, exploitation and abuse

Children with disabilities

Stigma, ignorance, neglect, superstition and communication barriers for children with disabilities are among the social factors that explain their discrimination and isolation from society.


Depending on how disability is defined, global figures estimate that 200 million children experience some form of disability. (UNESCO - Education for all global monitoring report 2010: Reaching the marginalized). However, statistics on incidence and prevalence of childhood disabilities are slim and assumptions often lie within large ranges of uncertainty and are outdated (UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre - Promoting the Rights of Children with Disabilities (2007). Children with single or multiple forms of physical, mental, intellectual, or sensory impariments can become disabled if attitudinal and environmental barriers deny their human rights, hinder access to basic services and foreclose equal participation.

© UNICEF/NYHQ2005-1785/Giacomo Pirozzi
Assisted by her mother, Masha, 5, laughs as she practices walking in her new body brace, at the Ukrainian Research Institute for Prosthetic Design and Rehabilitation in the eastern city of Kharkiv. Masha was born with spastic cerebral palsy, a form of impaired muscle movement caused by injury to the brain during foetal development or birth.
The realities of disability are alarming in all parts of the world. Legislation, policies and attitudes that fail to recognise the legal capacity of children with disabilities are factors that aggravate their discrimination and exclusion of society and increase their vulnerability to violence, abuse and exploitation.
Based on the social model of disability, UNICEF’s Child Protection Strategy recognises that responsive child protection systems should strengthen the effective participation, development and inclusion of this group of children, and their caregivers as well as address social attitudes and perceptions. As a result, disability is addressed within the context of an overall child protection systems approach which allows capturing the dynamic interplay between other protection needs, rather than treating disability in isolation.

UNICEF works with children with disability in the context of all its work. For example, working with governments to ensure that data on children with disabilities is systematically collected and used for programmes and policy decisions, and that data, particularly in formal care, includes a disability disaggregation. For example, incorporating attention to certain areas where children with disability may experience more risk, such as during emergencies; the overrepresentation in alternative care; the risk of violence due to the difficulty to defend or express oneself; the chance of being a child carer to a disabled parent; the risk of not being registered at birth due to feelings of shame or social stigma; the lack of equitable access to regular schools, social welfare services and benefits to children with disabilities.

Visit the resources page for more information.




UNICEF and Victor Pineda Foundation, It’s About Ability - An explanation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2008 [English] [French] [Montenegro] [Russian] [Spanish]

UNICEF and Victor Pineda Foundation, It’s About Ability: Learning Guide on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2009 [English] [French] [Spanish]

UNICEF, Monitoring Child Disability in Developing Countries: Results from the Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys, 2008

UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Promoting the Rights of Children with Disabilities, 2007 [English] [Russian]

UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, Children and Disability in Transition in CEE/CIS and Baltic States, 2005 [English] [Russian]


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