Children living with disabilities in the Western Balkans and Turkey are being “excluded from the moment they are born” – finds the first research of its kind by UNICEF and the European Disability Forum, funded by the European Union.
The report, Everybody counts, released to mark the 2018 International Day of Persons with Disabilities, reveals that across Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia and Turkey, efforts to end the segregation of children with disabilities in institutions and integrate them into their communities are not going far enough.
“Too many children with disabilities across the Western Balkans and Turkey are completely invisible and excluded from society,” says Genoveva Ruiz Calavera, Director for the Western Balkans in the European Commission.
“This is the first time their dire situation has been documented in this way and we are pleased that EU financial support has helped highlight the discrimination and challenges they face. Governments of the region must now take the necessary steps to change the daily lives of children with disabilities.”
Despite the many positive steps taken by governments across the region to date, the report highlights major challenges that remain, including:
- Inadequate access to early identification and intervention programmes, support services in the community, healthcare and truly inclusive education.
- Entrenched social discrimination and stigma, which are especially severe for children with disabilities who are also from other marginalised groups, such as refugees or the Roma community.
- A high risk of families slipping into poverty as they shoulder the high costs of care.
- Insufficient harmonisation of legislation with international human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, as well as poor implementation of relevant policies.
- Unreliable data on children with disabilities.
- Lack of protection for children with disabilities from the increased risk they face of violence and abuse.
“Children with disabilities are being excluded from the moment they are born, in every sphere of life,” said Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia.
“From the maternity ward, to their first day of school, to their progression into further education and employment, we need to do more to place children at the heart of their communities and create opportunities to fulfil their potential,” she said.
The research is part of a major three-year programme launched in 2016 by UNICEF, the European Disability Forum and the International Children’s Center, funded by the European Union, which aims to end violence against children and promote the inclusion of children with disabilities.
The project outlines six main goals – one of which is to improve publicly available data and information.
“One of the major achievements of this project is that it increased the involvement of organisations of persons with disabilities in this region in national and regional policy making to advance the rights of children with disabilities,” says Vice President of the European Disability Forum, Patrick Clarke.
“At the same time, it fostered a stronger cooperation between EDF, our members and partners in the region, and the local UNICEF and EU delegations.”
UNICEF, the European Disability Forum and the European Union are calling for urgent action to improve the inclusion of children with disabilities in society, and help children fulfil their potential.
Governments must increase coordination across all sectors to:
- Improve access to quality and inclusive education, healthcare, early identification and intervention services, public spaces and community services for children with disabilities.
- Tackle discrimination, violence, and lift families out of poverty.
- Improve data and fulfil their obligations as signatories of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
- Publication date
- 5 December 2018
- Directorate-General for Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations