While children with disabilities face barriers to their full participation in daily life, they are also disproportionally impacted by armed conflict. Lack of data, stigmas, and discrimination as well as lack of consideration and inclusive protective measures have largely resulted in leaving children with disabilities behind and undermining efforts to gain a comprehensive and accurate understanding of the impact of war on these children.
To examine the distinct ways in which armed conflict impacts children with disabilities, the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict (OSRSG CAAC) published a new report, ‘Towards Greater Inclusion: A Discussion Paper on the CAAC Mandate and Children with Disabilities in Armed Conflict’. This report examines the impact of armed conflict on children with disabilities and provides recommendations for making the CAAC mandate more inclusive, aiming also at informing policy discussions on conflict-affected children.
This discussion paper marks the first part of a series of reports to be published by the OSRSG CAAC addressing the impact of armed conflict on children with disabilities. Three country-specific companion reports focusing on the situation of children with disabilities in Colombia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Iraq will be produced, to provide an evidence base on which to act and with which to measure progress on protecting children with disabilities in armed conflict.
“While UNICEF estimates that nearly 240 million children – or one in 10 children worldwide – have disabilities, with indications that a significantly higher number of children with disabilities live in conflict situations, I would however be unable to tell you how many of them count among the victims of grave violations against children in armed conflict and how they were impacted by them.” explained the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba.
Despite this gap, several factors suggest that children with disabilities may be exposed to a greater risk of experiencing violations and abuses in situations of armed conflict. Indeed, obstacles in accessing schools, healthcare, and other services, are exacerbated by the destruction of infrastructure in conflict zones and the shrinking of safe spaces, which often correlate with an increased risk of grave violations. Children with disabilities may also experience difficulties fleeing attacks. The inadequacy of early warning systems and evacuation procedures often complicates their escape. They may be left behind by parents or caregivers, especially when routes are inaccessible or when they are institutionalized. In conflict-affected areas, children with disabilities may not have access to assistive devices, thus exposing them to a higher risk of being victims of grave violations.
The report points to several avenues to guide our action: the strengthening of data collection on children with disabilities in the framework of the monitoring and reporting mechanism on children and armed conflict; consultations with persons with disabilities, including children, and the organizations that represent them; and the provision of training and other capacity building efforts on disability inclusion would all contribute to enhancing the protection of children with disabilities in armed conflict.
‘Let us not make of this publication the end of a process, but the beginning of our common efforts to better take into account children with disabilities and their specific requirements into our action to protect conflict-affected children,’ concluded the Special Representative. Virginia Gamba.
Note to editors:
The paper is based on the review of available literature and interviews conducted with government representatives, child protection experts, academics, and civil society organizations – including organizations of persons with disabilities. It was produced with the generous contribution by the governments of Italy and Slovenia.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Ariane Lignier, Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, New York. email@example.com