The number of children with disabilities globally is estimated at almost 240 million, according to a new UNICEF report.
Children with disabilities are disadvantaged compared to children without disabilities on most measures of child well-being, the report says on Wednesday.
“This new research confirms what we already knew: Children with disabilities face multiple and often compounding challenges in realizing their rights,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.
“From access to education, to being read to at home; children with disabilities are less likely to be included or heard on almost every measure. All too often, children with disabilities are simply being left behind.”
The report includes internationally comparable data from 42 countries and covers more than 60 indicators of child well-being – from nutrition and health, to access to water and sanitation, protection from violence and exploitation, and education.
These indicators are disaggregated by functional difficulty type and severity, child’s sex, economic status, and country.
The report makes clear the barriers children with disabilities face to participating fully in their societies and how this often translates to negative health and social outcomes.
“Inclusive education cannot be considered a luxury. For far too long, children with disabilities have been excluded from society in a way that no child ever should be. My lived experience as a woman with disabilities supports that statement,” says Maria Alexandrova, 20, a UNICEF youth advocate for inclusive education from Bulgaria.
“No child, especially the most vulnerable, should have to fight for their basic human rights alone. We need governments, stakeholders and NGOs to ensure children with disabilities have equal, inclusive access to education.”