The world would be a better place if society focused on the potential of children with disabilities instead of what they can’t do, says UNICEF. The organization released its annual report: The State of the World’s Children 2013: Children with Disabilities on May 29, 2013.
“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,” UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said. “Their loss is society’s loss; their gain is society’s gain.”
The report encourages countries provide children with disabilities with access to every part of society such as mainstreaming in the educational system. UNICEF says that education provides these children with the opportunity to pursue their goals, and gives them the tools they need to end the discrimination that marginalizes them. Some families hide their children or put them institutions because of social stigma or the expense of raising them.
“Discrimination on the grounds of disability is a form of oppression,” the report says.
Few governments have accurate data on the number and needs of children with disabilities, or have dependable guides to support children with disabilities and their families.
Children with disabilities face many barriers to full inclusion in many countries, such as:
- They are unlikely to go to school or have access to health care
- Boys are more likely to be feed and cared for than girls
- They are more vulnerable to all forms of abuse, exploitation, violence and neglect, and are at a higher risk if they are in institutions or hidden by their families
- They are more likely to live in poverty
- They are not registered at the birth, cutting them off from human rights protection and the social services vital to their survival and quality of life
“For children with disabilities to count, they must be counted – at birth, at school and in life,” said Mr. Lake.
The report urges countries to guarantee the equal rights of its citizens and urges the approximately one third of world’s nations who have not ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to do so. UNICEF says that countries are making progress with inclusion, but the efforts are uneven.
The report provides an action plan to improve inclusion and measures to fight discrimination. It calls for international agencies to provide information and help that is consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, such as statistics and analysis needed to plan service delivery. Children and adolescents with disabilities should be able to provide input on program design.
“The path ahead is challenging,” said Mr. Lake in Da Nang, Viet Nam, for the launch of the report. “But children do not accept unnecessary limits. Neither should we.”