UNICEF: Children With Disabilities In Eastern Europe Still Face
Segregation And Discrimination
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 6, 2005
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND--The official number of children with disabilities in 27 eastern European and Central Asian countries has tripled since the collapse of the former Soviet Union, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) revealed Wednesday.
In an 86-page report, UNICEF showed that the official total jumped from 500,000 in 1990 to 1.5 million just ten years later.
Researchers said that the growth was primarily due to more children being registered with health authorities rather than to an actual large-scale increase in the rate of disability. Another one million children with disabilities are believed to be unregistered.
The report also showed that the number of children segregated in institutions in 2002 -- about 317,000 -- was essentially the same as in 1990. Most of those children later move to adult institutions where they continue to be neglected, stigmatized, and separated from the community, the report noted.
"Although children with disabilities have become more visible since the beginning of transition and attitudes towards them and their families are changing, many remain simply 'written off' from society," said Marta Santos Pais, who headed the research team.
"Deep poverty and a chronic lack of alternatives combine with outdated medical approaches neglecting the child's best interests and explain the high rates of child abandonment and placement in institutions," she added.
Countries in the study included new European Union members such as the Czech Republic, Poland and Estonia, as well as Balkan nations, Russia, Ukraine and several former Soviet republics in Central Asia.
The organization is calling for an immediate end to the practice of placing children with disabilities in institutions and segregated schools.
UNICEF regional director Maria Calivis said: "We need a radical change in attitude and values."
"It is time to transform the care and treatment of children with disabilities from being a source of public shame to being a measure of human progress."
"Millions of disabled children in Eastern and Central Europe denied rights" (United Nations)
"New report says children with disabilities in Eastern Europe often face a bleak existence" (UN Children's Fund)
Report: "Children and Disability in Transition in CEE/CIS and Baltic States" (UN Children's Fund)