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Thursday, 14 July 2016

HIDDEN SICK KIDS: UNICEF RESPONDS

UNICEF – the United Nations Children’s Fund – has spoken out against discrimination of disabled children in Swaziland.

It comes after newspaper and blog reports of two children aged eight and 16 who have been hidden away for years because they are severely disabled. It is reported that they might suffer the effects of polio. Neither can walk nor speak.

‘UNICEF wishes to remind all of us about our individual and collective legal and moral responsibilities towards safeguarding the rights and interests of all children, including those living with disabilities,’ Rachel Odede UNICEF Swaziland Representative said in a letter to the Times of Swaziland published on Wednesday (13 July 2016).

The Times reported on Monday the family of the children, ‘was allegedly given strict instructions not to ever show the children to anyone or even discuss their condition in public.

‘It has been alleged by the head of the family where the two children stay that officials from certain government offices barred and gave strict instructions not to show the children to anyone because making their condition known would place the country in bad light.’

Odede wrote, ‘The Constitution of the Kingdom of Swaziland guarantees equality, freedom, justice and dignity of all individuals, and specifically mandates an inclusive society for all including Persons with Disabilities. Section 4 of the Children’s Protection Welfare Act states that no child shall be discriminated against on the grounds of disability. Section 11 of the same Act states that a child with disability has a right to special care, medical treatment, rehabilitation, family and personal integrity, sports and recreation, education and training.’

She added, ‘We do not wish to see any child being discriminated against on the basis of gender, religion, race, economic and social status, and particularly disability. 

‘UNICEF’s vision is to build a world in which all children, especially those who are vulnerable, can grow up healthy, protected from harm and are educated so that they can reach their full potential.’

‘Article 11 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) specifically calls on duty bearers to take necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of conflict, emergency and disaster, signifying the importance of the issue.’

She added, ‘Research and studies tell us that more often than not, children with disabilities are particularly at higher risk of deprivation and exclusion, often lacking access to basic services such as education, healthcare as well as water and sanitation. 

‘Their voices are not heard in society. Disability also places them at higher risk of physical abuse, and often exclude them from receiving proper nutrition or humanitarian assistance in emergencies.’

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