UNICEF recently emphasized the importance of ensuring the needs of children with disabilities and their families are met and not overlooked in the midst of conflict and crisis. A recent press release reports that UNICEF underscored the potential for children with disabilities and their families to become even more vulnerable during times of conflict and crisis during the Fifth International Shafallah Forum on Crisis, Conflict and Disability. A UNICEF delegation led by Rima Salah, PhD, UNICEF deputy executive director, attended the international conference.
Salah noted in her keynote speech during the conference that, “In times of crisis, it is our responsibility to work in partnership so that children and adults living with disabilities feel that they are involved in the process of building an inclusive response to help prevent injuries and to assist survivors.”
According to the press release, 250 participants from more than 50 countries attended the conference to discuss the challenges and opportunities for strengthening inclusive approaches to humanitarian action. The release adds that participants included a number of First Ladies, secretaries of state, ministers, and international disability and humanitarian action experts.
A reported lack of reliable and comparable data leaves the exact number of children with disabilities worldwide unknown. “Whatever the real global number of children with disabilities is, we are talking about lives of individual children and their families. We cannot remain indifferent,” Salah says.
Key areas of urgent action UNICEF spotlights to accomplish these humanitarian goals include ensuring that support for individuals with disabilities should be applied before a crisis hits and continue afterwards through inclusive programmes.
Salah articulates that children and adults with disabilities need a voice, “They don’t need special treatment, but equal opportunity and access to resources.”