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The Plight of the World’s Disabled Children

State of the World's Children ReportWe live in a world where we do not know definitively how many of the world’s children are disabled. Why? In many countries children who are disabled are kept out of school, are hidden away, are ostracized, are marginalized, and live in dire poverty. While the United States affords the disabled many rights there are countries where being disabled is considered a curse deserving of harsh treatment whether it is killing children who are albinos or sterilizing girls who are mentally disabled.

UNICEF recently released the first-ever report of the world’s disabled children, The State of the World’s Children: Children With Disabilities . The report broadens the scope of disabled children globally and asks key questions about why disabled children worldwide have not only been forgotten by their communities and countries, but also by the global community at large. No one knows the full global story about disabled children, but UNICEF is setting out to change that in order to improve their lives and future.

Here’s what UNICEF does know about disabled children worldwide.

- Children with disabilities are 3 to 4 times more likely to be victims of violence.

- Children with disabilities are at much greater risk of malnutrition and face difficulties accessing clean drinking water and basic sanitation.

- At least a third of the 67 million primary-school age children who are not in school have a disability.

- Girls with disabilities are subject to forced sterilization or abortion.

- Disabled girls attend school the least compared to disabled boys and girls and boys without disabilities.

RahRahmatuallah, 14, writes on a white board during a training workshop for electricians at a UNICEF-assisted reintegration and rehabilitation centre for war-affected children in the southern city of Kandahar. His teacher, Gulham Mohammad, stands beside him. Rahmatuallah's father was killed in the war, and the rest of his family, including his mother and six siblings, were forced to flee their village. Rahmatuallah lost his leg in a landmine explosion last year, and is waiting to be outfitted for a new prosthetic. Matuallah, 14, writes on a white board during a training workshop for electricians at a UNICEF-assisted reintegration and rehabilitation centre for war-affected children in the southern city of Kandahar. His teacher, Gulham Mohammad, stands beside him. Rahmatuallah's father was killed in the war, and the rest of his family, including his mother and six siblings, were forced to flee their village. Rahmatuallah lost his leg in a landmine explosion last year, and is waiting to be outfitted for a new prosthetic. He comes to the centre every day on the back of his brother's bicycle. "I love coming to the centre," he said. "With my new leg and skills, I will be useful again and will be able to help my family." Some 3,000 children, including former child soldiers, attend such centres, where they learn vocational skills and receive psychosocial counselling. In June 2007 in Afghanistan, chronic insecurity and renewed violence, especially in rural areas, continue to impede recovery from decades of war, and limit progress for all the country's 25 million people - particularly its children and women. The nation's social indicators rank at or near the bottom among developing countries: average life expectancy is below 45 years; 40 to 60 percent of Afghan children are stunted or chronically malnourished; and the maternal mortality rate, at 1,600 per 100,000 live births, is one of the highest in the world. At least 50 women die every day from pregnancy-related complications and fewer than 2 per cent of women have ever attended a hospital or clinic. Despite the considerable success of the 2003 UNICEF-assisted back-to-school campaign, the enrolment of girls in rural areas is barely 30 per cent; the literacy rate for young women (aged 15-24) is only 18 per cent (versus 50 per cent for boys); while girls' primary school completion rate is only 13 per cent (versus 32 per cent for boys). Factors preventing girls from attending school include accessibility and security, the need to work, poverty and child marriage, the latter accounting for 43 per cent of all marriages. The destruction or closure of schools for security reasons in several southern provinces further restricts girls' access to an education. Additionally, 20 to 30 per cent of children must work to help support their families. Despite these challenges, the Government and its partners have put more than 4 million girls and boys back in school since 2005; some 64 per cent of children are fully immunized against the five major immuno-preventable childhood diseases; and Afghanistan - one of only four remaining polio endemic countries in the world - is on the verge of stopping wild poliovirus transmission within its territory. In other areas, UNICEF works to improve maternal health services; reduce under-five mortality; expand quality education, especially for girls and women; and ensure food security and equitable access to nutrition services.

RahRahmatuallah, 14, writes on a white board during a training workshop for electricians at a UNICEF-assisted reintegration and rehabilitation centre for war-affected children in the southern city of Kandahar. His teacher, Gulham Mohammad, stands beside him. Rahmatuallah’s father was killed in the war, and the rest of his family, including his mother and six siblings, were forced to flee their village. Rahmatuallah lost his leg in a landmine explosion last year, and is waiting to be outfitted for a new prosthetic. © UNICEF/NYHQ2007-1081/SHEHZAD NOORANI

Movement Toward Change

UNICEF is leading the movement to improve the lives of disabled children around the world starting with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and pledging to include the voices of disabled children in all actions created to protect them. UNICEF is also working to end institutionalization of disabled children, work more with families, coordinate and provide more services for disabled children, and bring on global stakeholders to move the needle on behalf of children with disabilities.

You can read the report on UNICEF.org.

 

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