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Globally, Kids With Disabilities Struggling, UNICEF Finds

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Children with disabilities are among the world’s most marginalized people, often going undocumented from birth and facing rampant discrimination, according to a new report from the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Globally, those with disabilities are the least likely to go to school or receive health care. Often tucked away in institutions, they are also among the most susceptible to violence, abuse and neglect, UNICEF found.

The report known as “The State of the World’s Children” is produced annually and this year focused on the global status of children with disabilities. The international organization is urging countries to embrace individuals with special needs, looking first at what they have to offer rather than just focusing on their deficits.

“When you see the disability before the child, it is not only wrong for the child, but it deprives society of all that child has to offer,” said Anthony Lake, executive director of UNICEF. “Their loss is society’s loss; their gain is society’s gain.”

The report documents the varied experiences of children with disabilities around the world. It includes the story of Michael Hosea of Tanzania who has albinism and has been hunted by practitioners of witchcraft who kill people with the condition to use their body parts, hair and organs in charms and potions.

In another case, Nicolae Poraico who has intellectual disability said that he wound up in an institution in Moldova where he was beaten by staff.

Identifying the full scope of the issues facing children with disabilities is challenging, however, since accurate data on the number of kids with special needs and how they are affected is scarce, the report found.

UNICEF says big changes are needed in societal attitudes and is urging nations to ratify the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. So far, 130 countries have ratified the pact which calls for greater community access and a better standard of living for people with disabilities worldwide.

The United States signed the treaty in 2009, but a push last year to ratify the convention was unsuccessful. A new round of hearings to consider ratification is expected in the U.S. Senate later this year.

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Comments (3 Responses)

  1. Bran says:

    I agree to this report. In my country, Philippines, even the people from the Department of Education of this country discriminates the students with special needs. Look at their number of hours, students with intellectual disability are served 2-4 hours in school not to mention the denial by the learning institution to these children. There is a different curriculum for them as mentioned by one of the general education supervisors in the National Capital Region.
    I suggest that the local UNICEF should talk to people who advocate for the rights children with special needs. There a lot of discriminatories stories which is not being published bec. people do have means to do so and their priorities are their basic needs.

  2. Cheyenne says:

    I am almost deaf and adopted. I know I am a disappointment for my German adoptive parents, especially my adoptive mother because they had wanted the perfect child (I was told by her from young on that I had been a problem since birth, she also had told me about the baby they had wanted to adopt before me she described in detail how perfect she was) and I became almost deaf at age 2. Sure, Iw as provided with all the necessities but no warm and affectionate love, only coldness and harshness.
    There was at that time – I do not know how bad it is today as I haven’t been living in Germany for 22 years – a lot of discrimination going on, no mainstreaming of deaf//hearing impaired kids and the misinformation of people thinking that if one is deaf, one must be brain damaged. It was very ahrd growing up in Germany. As far as I know, to this day, there are not a lot of accommodations available (barely any subtitles on TV for example). An American sociology teacher a a university on an US Army Base who had been in Germany for a long time told me that Germany was still with one foot in WWII when it comes to disabilities, and I agree.

  3. Beligere.N.MD says:

    I am not surprised by the report.I am developmental pediatrician trying to teach some of the physicians who are interested in helping these children but there is not much enthusiasm among the physician community .If the concerned Government of countries or other organizations like UNICEF, take up the task of educating the physicians that may help. as you know people are desperate for services.If there is support i am willing to teach, and help.

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