Wednesday, April 17, 2024
HomeFEATURED ARTICLEChildhood Disability in Africa Between Poverty and Discrimination

Childhood Disability in Africa Between Poverty and Discrimination

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that countries measure disability in different ways. While some nations only take into account physical ailments, others include mental health conditions. Thus, the study found that three key factors influence the depth of stigma against children with disabilities: their gender, the type of disability and the degree of dependency.

Only 20 percent of the world’s disabled people live in developed countries. This may indicate the relationship between disability and poverty, especially extreme poverty. If disability is already a situation of vulnerability in itself, it becomes more complex when one belongs to the other 80 percent who live in developing countries, and reaches unimaginable limits if the disability is experienced as a child on the African continent, especially in West Africa.

In Africa, the sum of disability plus poverty results in a degree of vulnerability that is difficult to cope with, and this is compounded by traditional beliefs and lack of knowledge. Having a child with a disability in Africa, especially in West Africa, is considered a divine punishment due to something the parents have done or the consequence of some kind of spell.

Children with disabilities who live on this side of the continent face widespread discrimination and extreme poverty, which have their origin in stigma and negative attitudes towards this group, according to a report by the NGO International Plan on Children’s Rights, published in the context of the first High-level Meeting of the UN General Assembly on Development and disability.

The Millennium Development Goals – which were put into action between 2000 and 2015 — did not cover people with disabilities. Now, the Sustainable Development Goals, which must be met by 2030, also do not include a specific target on disability, although 11 of their sub-goals explicitly mention disabilities, especially those related to urban health, planning and monitoring.

The document, with the slogan “Outside the Circle,” shows how violence and abuse are part of the routine of these children, who are excluded from education on a massive scale and are denied their rights on a daily basis, in addition to suffering a high rate of infanticide and being exposed to the organ trade, according to the NGO. The research, carried out in collaboration with the University of Toronto, also reveals that progress in the social inclusion of children with disabilities is very limited despite the legal commitments made by the region’s governments. It is common practice for families with a child with a disability to hide him or her, treat him or her like an animal, or even abandon him or her to his or her fate on the outskirts of the village. As for the causes of this exclusion and discrimination, the document mentions the stigma and negative attitudes towards children. Specifically, the research – conducted in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Niger and Togo – reveals that community perceptions are one of the root causes of endemic violence and discrimination against children with disabilities.

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that countries measure disability in different ways. While some nations only take into account physical ailments, others include mental health conditions. Thus, the study found that three key factors influence the depth of stigma against children with disabilities: their gender, the type of disability and the degree of dependency.

The document adds that specific cases indicate that there is a perception by the community that disabilities are due to divine punishment, the result of sins committed by the parents, an act of the devil, or that the child is a sorcerer. It is also believed that the mother may have looked at a child with a disability during pregnancy. For all these reasons, children with disabilities are considered “supernatural,” “strange” or “demons.” In the words of Plan’s regional director for West Africa, Adama Coulibaly, “children with disabilities, especially girls, are at high-risk of physical, emotional and sexual abuse, as well as being abandoned by their families.” “The extent of this rights violation is unknown in the region,” he warns.

In 2006, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but it was not until November 2016 that the first official Toolkit on the subject was launched in Africa. Efforts to understand the extent of disability and the interventions needed are marred by difficulties in collecting data.

In 2006, at the time the UN disability convention was adopted, WHO claimed that there were only 500 million people in the world with disabling health conditions, half of those identified six years later in WHO’s 2011 World Report on Disability.

For this reason, the Plan calls on West African governments to implement their legal commitments to children with disabilities and on all other countries to make them a priority at the UN High Level Meeting on Disability and Development, as well as in the ongoing post-Millennium Development Goals discussions currently being negotiated.

The organization also urges taking concrete measures to ensure that children with disabilities have access to education, protection from violence and abuse, as well as the opportunity to raise their voice. Another dimension of the problem is related to primary health care and the almost insistence of it in many of the countries with high levels of disabled children.

Most of the diseases in children that cause disability are curable diseases. Poor nutrition, the lack of health of parents, the absence of prenatal care, also contribute to disability in minors. Another of the causes of disability in African girls is genital mutilation.

Among the positive initiatives that have resulted from the marked interest and intervention of international organizations and African governments open to starting the path of disability care for minors, there is a program with several years of experience in Senegal.

The program strives to improve access to school for disabled children by equipping them with working skills, providing psychosocial support and registering them in the civil registry if they are not.

Only half of the births are registered in Senegal, more than 22 percent of the children work, and it has a child marriage rate of 40 percent.

Another positive experience is the one carried out by the G.A. Hommes de Demain Foundation. Since this foundation started working in the care of basic ailments and in the development of capacities of disabled children in Africa, great achievements have been seen in improving living conditions.

“Mothers now know that their children can go to school, for example.” During the work of specialists of the foundation, it was found that African teachers are not prepared to care for disabled minors, nor is there a specialization in Special Education.

Telesurenglish

RELATED ARTICLES

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisment -
Google search engine

Most Popular

Recent Comments