Tuesday, June 4, 2013

UNICEF’s Global Report on Children with Disabilities

Taken from:

By Dashiell Young-Saver
The day before Children’s Day—Mongolia’s national holiday celebrating children—UNICEF held a conference in Ulaanbaatar to launch its 2013 “State of the World’s Children” report. This year, the annual report was dedicated to children with disabilities.
Presentations made by UNICEF on Friday were focused on efforts to increase the inclusion of children with disabilities in more parts of society, which UNICEF believes will help lower school drop-out rates and address poverty and inadequate healthcare facing these children.
“We should not see [children with disabilities] as recipients of charity but children with abilities,” said Mohamed Malick Fall, UNICEF country representative. “With the right opportunities, children with disabilities can contribute strongly to the social, cultural and economic vitality of their communities.”
One speculative, but widely used 2004 estimate, claims that some 93 million children live with a moderate or severe disability. According to the UNICEF report, these children are more likely to face physical violence, poverty, ineffective treatment for illnesses, and are less likely to complete school than other children. UNICEF recommends that the private and public sectors of all nations facilitate inclusive social activities (like sporting events), increase inclusive media to spread awareness about disabilities, create subsidies for the care of children with disabilities, implement community-based rehabilitation and to use better surveys to generate statistics.
Mongolia is no stranger to tackling the issues and implementing policies relating to children with disabilities. A 2005 study sponsored by the World Health Organization, found that about nine percent of all secondary school students in Ulaanbaatar have a disability, the most common being visual impairment. “We need to make proper changes, providing equal rights to these children in terms of education, wealth and other services,” said I.Naratunya, director of the Mongolian National Children’s Authority.
“Mongolia is a young country, in terms of age. And our future is the children, so we must make sure they are all good citizens,” said S.Erdene, MP and Minister of Population Development and Social Protection. “This is why we must help impaired children and their families.”
The Mongolian government has already ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, approved subsidies for families with children with disabilities, introduced peer-to-peer advising programs and has improved its training for educating students with disabilities. According to S.Erdene, it also plans to develop improved data collection and institute a program to create centers for children with disabilities in all of Mongolia’s provinces. However, most who attended the conference thought more could be done to implement Mongolia’s new policies and allocate new resources, following the nation’s economic boom.
“I see that Mongolia has put a lot of effort towards public investment on children, such as with social protections and school feeding programs—all of which is a significant allocation of money for the well-being of the children. But still, there are gaps,” said Country Representative, Fall following the event. “[Mongolia] has to take these resources and do its investment in a way that can really help to have Mongolian policy in regards to children with disability present everywhere—that you can go to every school and you’ll find [our] inclusion principle.”
Uyanga, a public relations officer at the U.S. Embassy, grew up in Mongolia. She started losing her sight at four years of age. By the time she was nine years old, she had to leave home to attend a “special school” in Ulaanbaatar. “When you are far from your own home, you understand you need to gain more skills,” she said. Since then, she has broken ground by studying English in the United States and bringing back Mongolia’s first guide dog, educating many by demonstrating success.
Although Uyanga believes that conditions for children with disabilities have improved since she was a student, she thinks that more essential education policies must be implemented to close the opportunity gap.
“The structure [of education] has improved since I was a student,” she said. “But the teachers need to be trained better. For instance, there is only one lecture during the standard education of Mongolian teachers about children with disabilities. Once we can improve the education of these children, our workforce will improve.”

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