Children with disabilities and their communities would both benefit if society focused on what they can achieve, rather than what they cannot, says UNICEF’s annual State of the World’s Children’s report. While WFP’s the first State of School Feeding Worldwide report, provides a global picture of developments in school feeding.
See the child – before the disability, UNICEF says
Concentrating on the abilities and potential of children with disabilities would create benefits for society as a whole, says the report released today.
“When you see the disability before the child, it is not only wrong for the child, but it deprives society of all that child has to offer,” said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake. “Their loss is society’s loss; their gain is society’s gain.”
The report lays out how societies can include children with disabilities because when they play a full part in society, everyone benefits. For instance, inclusive education broadens the horizons of all children even as it presents opportunities for children with disabilities to fulfil their ambitions.
More efforts to support integration of children with disabilities would help tackle the discrimination that pushes them further into the margins of society.
For many children with disabilities, exclusion begins in the first days of life with their birth going unregistered. Lacking official recognition, they are cut off from the social services and legal protections that are crucial to their survival and prospects. Their marginalization only increases with discrimination.
“For children with disabilities to count, they must be counted – at birth, at school and in life,” said Mr. Lake.
The State of the World’s Children 2013: Children with Disabilities says that children with disabilities are the least likely to receive health care or go to school. They are among the most vulnerable to violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect, particularly if they are hidden or put in institutions – as many are because of social stigma or the economic cost of raising them.
The combined result is that children with disabilities are among the most marginalized people in the world. Children living in poverty are among the least likely to attend their local school or clinic but those who live in poverty and also have a disability are even less likely to do so.
Gender is a key factor, as girls with disabilities are less likely than boys to receive food and care.
“Discrimination on the grounds of disability is a form of oppression,” the report says, noting that multiple deprivations lead to even greater exclusion for many children with disabilities.
There is little accurate data on the number of children with disabilities, what disabilities these children have and how disabilities affect their lives. As a result, few governments have a dependable guide for allocating resources to support and assist children with disabilities and their families.
About one third of the world’s countries have so far failed to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The report urges all governments to keep their promises to guarantee the equal rights of all their citizens – including their most excluded and vulnerable children.
Progress is being made toward the inclusion of children with disabilities, albeit unevenly, and The State of the World’s Children 2013 sets out an agenda for further action.
The report urges governments to ratify and implement the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and to support families so that they can meet the higher costs of caring for children with disabilities.
It calls for measures to fight discrimination among the general public, decision-makers and providers of such essential services as schooling and health care.
International agencies should make sure the advice and assistance they provide to countries is consistent with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. They should promote a concerted global research agenda on disability to generate data and analysis that will guide planning and resource allocation, the report says.
It emphasizes the importance of involving children and adolescents with disabilities by consulting them on the design and evaluation of programmes and services for them.
And everyone benefits when inclusive approaches include accessibility and universal design of environments to be used by all to the greatest extent possible without the need for adaptation.
The path ahead is challenging,” said Mr. Lake in Da Nang, Viet Nam, for the launch of the report. “But children do not accept unnecessary limits. Neither should we.”
School Feeding Crucial In Crisis Times, Yet The Most Needy Still Miss Out
The State of School Feeding Worldwide report, for the first time provides a global picture and analysis of school feeding programmes in well-off countries as well as in developing nations, and data on how governments use school meals as a “safety net” in times of crisis.
According to the research, around 368 million children – about one out of every five – get a meal at school every day in 169 developing and developed countries. Global investment in these programmes is about US$75 billion, with most coming from government budgets.
Yet despite the global nature of school feeding, the coverage of these programmes is lowest where they are most needed. In low-income countries, where children are most likely to be poor and hungry, only 18 percent receive a daily meal at school, compared to nearly 49 percent of children in middle-income countries.
“School feeding assures that where quality education is available, children are able to take advantage of the opportunity to learn,” said WFP’s Executive Director, Ertharin Cousin. “It’s an investment that pays off in the future with better-educated, stronger and healthier adults and it’s also a critical safety net to prevent the most vulnerable from suffering in times of crisis.”
In the past five years, at least 38 countries have scaled up their school feeding programmes in response to a crisis, whether related to food prices, conflict, natural disaster or financial volatility.
“During the food and fuel crises in 2008 many governments struggled to protect the most vulnerable from hunger and looked to school meals to achieve that. In the current recession, even wealthy nations are examining how school meals can prevent families sliding deeper into poverty and hunger,” said State of School Feeding Worldwide lead author Carmen Burbano.
School feeding provides an array of benefits in terms of education, nutrition, income transfer and local agricultural production. For every US$1 spent by governments and donors WFP estimates that at least US$3 is gained in economic returns, according to the report.
WFP has been operating school meals programmes in developing countries for close to half a century. In 2012, WFP provided meals or nutritious snacks in school for 24.7 million children in 63 countries, including take -home rations for 1.3 million girls and 500,000 boys – providing an incentive for poor families to keep their children in class, rather than pull them out to work in the fields, in factories or in the home.
WFP supports national governments to improve their capacity to implement quality, sustainable school feeding programmes – allowing a transition from WFP-run programmes to nationally-owned and operated school meals programmes.
State of School Feeding Worldwide is being presented today at the largest annual meeting of school feeding experts, co-hosted by the Global Child Nutrition Foundation and WFP’s Centre of Excellence Against Hunger in Brazil.
To download the report: The State of School Feeding Worldwide 2013
For broadcast quality video footage of WFP school feeding programmes
To download a selection of photos of WFP school feeding programmes
For info on the Global Child Nutrition Forum