Children with disabilities 'invisible': UN

2013-05-30 10:00
Mwajuma, an albino, stands in her home on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam. (Yasoyoshi Chiba, AFP)

Mwajuma, an albino, stands in her home on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam. (Yasoyoshi Chiba, AFP)

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Hanoi - Children with disabilities are among the most marginalised and excluded in the world, often going unregistered at birth and facing bullying, discrimination and even murder, a new UN report said on Thursday.

"Many of the deprivations endured by children with disabilities stem from and are perpetuated by their invisibility," the UN Children's Fund (Unicef) said in The State of the World's Children 2013 report.

Disabled children are at greater risk of being poor, are least likely to receive an education and healthcare, and in many countries face abandonment or institutionalisation, according to the report.

"There is no group of children who are not just left behind but nearly invisible as much as children with disabilities," Unicef executive director Anthony Lake told AFP ahead of the report's release in Vietnam.

"They're the hardest to reach of the hardest to reach. They're not registered at birth. They're bullied. They're discriminated against. They're sometimes - like albinos in Tanzania - murdered," he said.

The report highlights the example of Michael Hosea, an 18-year-old who is one of three people with albinism in his immediate family.

Identity and character

In Tanzania, people with albinism are hunted by practitioners of witchcraft seeking to use their hair, body parts and organs in charms and potions, and the family had a narrow escape from becoming victims themselves.

After managing to flee, their would-be attackers went next door to the home of the local albino representative.

"They cut off his genitals and arms, and left him there to die," the report said, quoting Hosea.

There are also more positive stories, including the case of a mother in Australia who gave up her job to become a full-time caregiver to her son who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at five months old.

"I have learned that no matter what a child can't do, she or he will still always have an identity and a character that will leave a distinctive brush stroke on the world," his mother Claire Halford is quoted as saying.

"If we want to be an enlightened society, our job is to believe and encourage," she added.

Data on the number of children with a disability is unreliable as many are not registered at birth.

One widely used estimate of 93 million disabled children worldwide - or one in 20 of those aged 14 or younger - is out of date and likely inaccurate, the report said, calling for more research to be carried out.

It warned sweeping changes are needed in social attitudes or children with disabilities will continue to have their rights neglected and experience discrimination, violence and abuse as well as exclusion from society.

Read more on:    un  |  unicef  |  human rights  |  child abuse

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