A UN study has found that children with disabilities are the
most marginalised in the world.
The UNICEF report The State of the World's Children
(2013) suggests that disabled children are more likely to suffer
from a lack of education, and from poverty, hunger, and physical
and sexual violence, because of their disability. In many
countries, they also face abandonment or institutionalisation.
The best estimate for the number of disabled children globally
suggests that some 93 million - one in 20 under the age of 14 -
live with a moderate or severe disability, although this figure is
likely to be a significant underestimate.
Globally, only ten per cent of children with disabilities are in
school, and of these, only half finish their primary-school
"There is no group of children who are not just left behind, but
nearly invisible, as much as children with disabilities," the
executive director of UNICEF, Anthony Lake, said. "They're not
registered at birth; they're bullied, they're discriminated
against; they're sometimes . . . murdered."
Malnutrition is identified as frequently the hidden cause and
effect of disability. About 165 million under-fives are believed to
be chronically malnourished, leaving them short of vital vitamins
and minerals. Anaemia, often linked to poor nutrition, is one of
the most common causes of disability in the world. And, each year,
up to half a million children are at risk of becoming blind because
of vitamin-A deficiency, while a lack of iodine can lead to brain
The report calls for changing attitudes, inclusion, and better
social services for disabled children. More emphasis should be put
on what the children were able to do rather than what they cannot
do, Mr Lake said. "The greatest barrier they face is not so much
the disability as the discrimination they face. So unless you tear
down the barriers against their being included in society, and
unless you provide assistance . . . they are not going to make
The report was launched in Da Nang, a city in central Vietnam
that is strongly associated with Agent Orange. The airport was used
to store the herbicide during the war with the US. Experts have
linked a dioxin present in Agent Orange to an increased prevalence
of disabilities in the area.
The UNICEF report urges governments to ratify and implement the
Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the
Convention on the Rights of the Child: 27 countries, including
Iraq, Somalia, and Zimbabwe, have yet to ratify the Convention.
UNICEF has launched a social-media campaign, #ThisAbility
Portraits. It urges people to upload photos "of yourself, of a
friend . . . or someone who inspires you" (statigr.am/contest/prwy/thisabilityportraits).