6/12/2013: This year, the United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) annual publication “The State of the World’s Children” focuses on children with disabilities – the challenges they face, what governments, NGOs, and communities can do to provide for them, and the amazing things they can do when given the same opportunities as children without disabilities.
Traditionally, “The State of the World’s Children” begins with a statistic, fact, or finding meant to highlight a problem. This year, that is not the case. Instead, the report begins by making it clear that “the boys and girls to whom this issue is dedicated are not problems.” While children with disabilities do face greater challenges than other children, the point of the report is to highlight that when given the opportunity to flourish, children with disabilities can lead fulfilling lives and make rich contributions to their communities.
Disability Leads to Stigmatization
Unfortunately, disabled children are rarely given the same opportunities as others, especially in developing countries. According to UNICEF, they are at a greater risk for poverty, and are less like to attend schools or receive medical care than impoverished children without disabilities. These children are often hidden from view or relegated to second-rate institutional care. Additionally, children with disabilities are four times more likely to be neglected and physically abused than other children, and are over three times more likely to be emotionally abused, both by their peers and adults.
With 150 million disabled children worldwide, addressing their challenges is no easy task. But SOS Children’s Villages, like UNICEF, believes that disabled children have the same potential for success as all other children. That is why inclusion is the main focus of our work with disabled children around the world – and why direct services for disabled children are provided in every program we operate.
Inclusion is the Key to Success
In our Villages, children with disabilities or special needs are accommodated for, and special training is given to their SOS Mothers and caretakers so that they are provided with the best care available. In fact, SOS has special Villages that provide care for severely disabled children in countries that need it most, such as India, Nepal, and Mexico.
Outside of our Villages, SOS Family Strengthening programs also provide specialized services for disabled children and their families. Oftentimes parents of disabled children simply do not know how to care for them. SOS helps them through the learning process so that the risk of abandonment – which is considerably higher for disabled children – is lessened.
Disability shouldn’t equate to a lower quality of life. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to. By ensuring that children with disabilities have access to quality medical care and schooling, and by teaching communities to embrace all children, we can help disabled children reach their full potential.
Click here to read the SOS forum on inclusion and disability.
Click here to read UNICEF’s 2013 “The State of the World’s Children” report.