African Children with Disabilities at Risk

May 11, 2012
Source: African Child Policy Forum

Africa has one of the largest populations of children with disabilities in the world. Their plight is one of a hidden existence characterized by an exclusion from social services, inaccessible infrastructure as well as abuse and neglect. A 2010 survey carried out by ACPF in Ethiopia, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda revealed that the leading causes of disability in Africa are inadequate laws and policies, negative attitudes and discourses (e.g. negative societal, parental and expert attitudes), household poverty (e.g. disability-induced poverty), inadequate public services that cater for these highly vulnerable groups of children.

The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) has adopted the theme of The Rights of Children with Disabilities: The Duty to Protect, Respect, Promote and Fulfill for the commemoration of the 22nd Day of the African Child to be held on 16 June 2012. The objective of the commemoration is to call on African Governments to meet their obligations under regional and international human rights instruments to ensure the realisation of the rights of children with disabilities. The Committee expects all Member States to submit a report to the African Union Commission on the commemoration of the Day of the African Child 2012. A concept note on the commemoration and a reporting framework has been sent to Member States. The Committee highlights the following six areas of concern in its concept note on the Day of the African Child 2012:

• The links between poverty and disability;
• Social attitudes, stigma and discrimination;
• Access to education;
• Violence against children with disabilities;
• The importance of statistics and data collection; and
• The right to be heard and to participate

The Civil Society Organisations Forum on the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (CSO Forum) has called on policy makers and service providers to take urgent action for children with disabilities and proposed the following areas of action as key entry points for consideration in addressing the current gaps and inadequacies in protecting, promoting and upholding the rights of children with disabilities:

1. Data and information on children with disabilities
2. Legislation, Policy and Resourcing
3. Education and awareness
4. Programming and access to basic services
5. Participation, Inclusion and visibility

This call was made at the Sixth CSO Forum that was attended by members of the ACERWC, the African Union, CSOs from across Africa as well as International Non-Governmental Organisations operating in Africa. The Forum was organised under the same theme as the above mentioned 2012 Day of the African Child. The outputs of the Forum included a Communiqué to African States, Recommendations to the ACERWC and Commitments of CSOs to upholding the rights of children with disabilities.

With regards to governance issues of the CSO Forum, it was decided after a contentious debate that CSOs would hold regional/national consultations on a proposed governance structure of the CSO Forum and a Liaison Unit and vote on the issue at the next Forum. A new interim Management Committee was formed to manage the affairs of the CSO Forum until November 2012 when an election is scheduled to be held. The Sixth CSO Forum was held from 21 to 23 March 2012 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.