Nearly 240 million children with disabilities in the world: UNICEF report

21 January 2022

The number of children with disabilities worldwide is estimated to be 240 million, according to a report the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund published recently.

Children with disabilities are disadvantaged compared to children without disabilities in most aspects of child well-being, the report found.

“This new research confirms what we already knew: Children with disabilities face multiple and often compounding challenges in realizing their rights,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

“From access to education, to being read to at home; children with disabilities are less likely to be included or heard on almost every measure. All too often, children with disabilities are simply being left behind.”

The report includes internationally comparable data from 42 countries and covers more than 60 indicators of child well-being – from nutrition and health to access to water, sanitation, and education, as well as protection from violence and exploitation.

These indicators are disaggregated by functional difficulty type and severity, the child’s sex, economic status, and country. The report makes clear the barriers children with disabilities face in participating fully in society and how this often translates to negative health and social outcomes, according to the report.

However, the disabilities experience varies greatly. The analysis demonstrates that there is a spectrum of risks and outcomes depending on the type of disability, where the child lives, and what services they can access. This highlights the importance of designing targeted solutions to address inequities, according to the report.

Access to education is one of several subjects examined in the report. Despite widespread agreement on the importance of education, children with disabilities are still falling behind.

Out-of-school rates are higher among children with multiple disabilities, and disparities become even more significant when the severity of the disability is taken into account.

UNICEF works with partners at global and local levels to help realize the rights of children with disabilities. All children, including those with disabilities, must have a say in the issues that affect their lives and be provided with the opportunity to realize their potential and claim their rights. UNICEF is calling on governments to provide children with disabilities with equal opportunities, to consult persons with disabilities, and consider the full range of disabilities, as well as the specific needs of children and their families, when providing inclusive services and equitable quality education.

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