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See the Child, Not the Disability

Today UNICEF launches its annual State of the World’s Children report. This year, the report is focusing on children with disabilities. It calls on the world to change attitudes and include children with disabilities in all areas of society.

In Zimbabwe, 17-year-old Munashe writes with his feet. Unable to use his hands because of a disability, he is taking final exams in mathematics at the King George IV School of the Disabled. Munashe wants to be an accountant.

Thirteen-year-old Uyanga was born learning disabled. Today, she attends a UNICEF-supported center that teaches children with disabilities new skills in an inclusive and supportive environment. Uyanga is learning to hold a pen and is working on her speech.

Rahmatuallah, 14, writes on a white board during a workshop for electricians at a UNICEF-assisted reintegration and rehabilitation center in Kandahar.

Rahmatuallah, 14, writes on a white board during a workshop for electricians at a UNICEF-assisted reintegration and rehabilitation center in Kandahar. © UNICEF/AFGA2007-00420/Noorani

All children, including children with disabilities, have the right to learn, to play, to reach their dreams. But sadly, Uyanga and Munashe are more exception than the rule.

Children with disabilities are among the most deprived and marginalized children in the world. They are the least likely to go to school, and are most vulnerable to neglect and abuse. They are targets of discrimination, exclusion and stigmatization. Girls, especially, are frequently malnourished, and are subject to forced sterilization. Worst of all, children with disabilities are too often invisible—ignored by governments and communities.

Right now, there are 93 million children living with disabilities—many of whom are discriminated against, excluded, and, in effect, made invisible.

UNICEF is working to bring these children back from the margins of society by removing barriers to their participation and by including them in all of its programs. When we give all children the right to reach their full potential, society is enriched as a whole.

Here is what you can do to help give children with disabilities a chance to make their dreams a reality.

To learn more, visit our Children with Disabilities page.


  1. JaniceSchacterLintz
    Posted June 9, 2013 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    This is an issue in the US as well. We need to eradicate antiquated perceptions of people with disabilities. As soon as my daughter was diagnosed with a hearing loss, I was immediately told there were special schools for her. There were, Chapin, a top private girl’s school in NY and Brown University.

    It is time to remove the artificial barriers that prevent children with disabilities from succeeding. Disabilities are no longer about them but about us.

    Janice Schacter Lintz, chair, Hearing Access Program

  2. Annette Apitz, UNICEF USA
    Posted June 12, 2013 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. You are right, barriers that prohibit persons with disabilities from reaching their full potential exist everywhere, whether in the form of a staircase or the lack of inclusive or targeted schooling. UNICEF works to take down these barriers, so that children everywhere will have equal opportunities. Here in the U.S., for example, we are advocating for lawmakers to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Ratifying this convention will help improve our own laws and policies to ensure full participation of people with disabilities, so that life for children with disabilities in this country will continue to improve.

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