With Release of Flagship Report, UNICEF Says Children with Disabilities Ignored, Abused, and Face Discrimination

Children with disabilities are the least likely to receive health care or go to school, according to UNICEF’s 2013 State of the World’s Children report.

NEW YORK (May 30, 2013) – Children with disabilities are the least likely to receive health care or go to school, according to UNICEF’s 2013 State of the World’s Children report, released today. They are among the most vulnerable to violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect, particularly if they are hidden or put in institutions—as many are because of social stigma or the economic cost of raising them.

The combined result is that children with disabilities are among the most marginalized people in the world. Children living in poverty are among the least likely to attend their local school or clinic, but those who live in poverty and also have a disability are even less likely to do so. Children with disabilities are at a much greater risk of malnutrition and face difficulties accessing clean drinking water, basic sanitation, and other essential services. Gender is a key factor, as girls with disabilities are less likely than boys to receive food and care.

In addition, children with disabilities are three to four times more likely to be victims of violence, and in many countries, they are significantly more likely to experience abuse at home. According to the annual flagship report, girls with disabilities are routinely subjected to forced sterilization or abortion. To read UNICEF’s State of the World's Children 2013: Children with Disabilities report, visit: www.unicef.org/sowc/

“Today, all across the developing world, children with disabilities are being discriminated against, denied access to an education, abused, and even forced into servitude—gross violations of their rights. Our world will be a better place when all children, everywhere, can live out their dreams and contribute their many talents to society,” said Caryl Stern, president and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.

About one third of the world’s countries, including the United States, have failed to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The report urges governments to ratify and implement the Convention, to keep their promises to guarantee the equal rights of all their citizens—including their most excluded and vulnerable children—and to support families so that they can meet the higher costs of caring for children with disabilities.

There is little accurate data on the number of children with disabilities, what disabilities these children have and how disabilities affect their lives. As a result, few governments have a dependable guide for allocating resources to support and assist children with disabilities and their families.

For many children with disabilities, exclusion begins in the first days of life with their birth going unregistered. Lacking official recognition, they are cut off from the social services and legal protections that are crucial to their survival and prospects. Their marginalization only increases with discrimination.

“For children with disabilities to count, they must be counted—at birth, at school and in life,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

The report lays out how societies can include children with disabilities because when they play a full part in society, everyone benefits. It calls for measures to fight discrimination among the general public, decision-makers and providers of such essential services as schooling and health care. It states that more efforts to support integration of children with disabilities would help tackle the discrimination that pushes them further into the margins of society. For instance, inclusive education broadens the horizons of all children even as it presents opportunities for children with disabilities to fulfill their ambitions. The report also emphasizes the importance of involving children and adolescents with disabilities by consulting them on the design and evaluation of programs and services for them.

"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 Lake. “Their loss is society's loss; their gain is society's gain.”

Children with disabilities and their communities would both benefit if society focused on what those children can achieve, rather than on what they cannot do. Concentrating on the abilities and potential of children with disabilities would create benefits for society as a whole, says the report.

For broadcasters, b-roll and other video material on children with disabilities is available at: http://weshare.unicef.org/SOWC2013Media


The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in 190 countries and territories to save and improve children’s lives, providing health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. The U.S. Fund for UNICEF supports UNICEF's work through fundraising, advocacy and education in the United States. Together, we are working toward the day when ZERO children die from preventable causes and every child has a safe and healthy childhood. For more information, visit www.unicefusa.org.

For additional information, please contact:

Susannah Masur, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9146, smasur@unicefusa.org
Andrea Sioris, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, 212.880.9136, asioris@unicefusa.org