Why - The Challenge

In countries across the world persons with disabilities often live on the margins of society, deprived of some of life’s fundamental rights. 

Children with Disabilities

Children with disabilities are one of the most vulnerable, excluded and marginalised groups in societies the world over. They have limited access to education, basic healthcare and rehabilitation services, sport and community programmes. Their disabilities significantly increase the risk of abuse and neglect. Due to discrimination and stigma they are denied opportunities that are accessible to their able-bodied peers.

Disability and Poverty

Disability and poverty are directly linked; disability is both a cause and a consequence of poverty. Poverty puts people at risk of avoidable disabilities through a lack of basic healthcare, sanitation, malnutrition and unsafe living conditions. Children living in poverty are more likely to experience illness and infection, particularly in the vulnerable years during infancy and early childhood [1]. It is estimated that 65% of childhood disability in Africa is the direct result of untreated illnesses and infections [2]. A significant percentage of disabilities could be prevented through breastfeeding and vitamin A supplementation [3]. In turn disability can lead to poverty due to a lack of access to services and opportunities which are available to other members of society.

Female Caregiver 

Caregivers often struggle to meet the basic needs of their disabled children. When a child with a disability is born, the mother is generally blamed for the disability and it is not uncommon for the father to desert his family, leaving the mother alone to care for her child.

A sibling, typically a girl, might be required to look after the disabled child at home and therefore drop out of school [4]. During our 2014 impact assessment in Zimbabwe 55% of female caregivers indicated that fathers and other male relatives were not generally involved in the lives of their children [5]. Therefore, we believe that female caregivers need to be supported and that their male relatives need to be educated about disabilities and rehabilitation processes.

Societies’ Attitudes

Stigma results in negative attitudes towards children with disabilities and their families. We believe disability to be a human rights issue. According to the social model of disability, people are disabled by society, not just by their bodies. However, these barriers can be overcome, if governments, NGOs, professionals and people with disabilities and their families work together to change policies, legislation, improve access to services and change attitudes. There is need to provide more detailed information about disabilities, 
the prevention of disabilities and the importance of early identification and treatment to the public.

[1] The African Report on Children with Disabilities, p26 – ACPF - 2014
[2] The African Report on Children with Disabilities, p19 – ACPF - 2014
[3] The African Report on Children with Disabilities, p20 – ACPF - 2014
[4] DFID Disability Framework – Leaving no one behind - 2014
[5] S4S Impact Assessment, p18 – Janette Hetherton - 2014

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