Human Rights Watch (HRW) Wednesday urged the UN and countries around the globe to provide safety and assistance for children with disabilities stuck in armed conflict and crises.
HRW reported that children with disabilities are more vulnerable during armed conflicts. They are at a higher risk of abandonment because their families must choose whether to flee without them or stay behind to assist them. While children with physical disabilities may find it difficult to escape without assistive devices, those with hearing, visual, developmental, or intellectual disabilities may struggle to comprehend the situation.
Furthermore, children with disabilities are more likely to be unable to attend school and to be excluded from formal education and educational programs given by humanitarian organizations. They also risk a lack of access to essential services and humanitarian aid, as well as long-term mental health issues. In addition, conflict can push them and their families further into poverty, making it challenging to meet even basic needs.
In June 2019, the UN Security Council passed a resolution stressing the obligation to protect, assist, consult, and end impunity for atrocities against people with disabilities during armed conflict. It mandated the UN Secretary-General to incorporate information and data on individuals with disabilities in their reports to the UN Security Council. However, as per HRW, such reports do not pay enough attention to children with disabilities.
Virginia Gamba de Potgieter, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, released a study in January 2022 revealing that children with disabilities have been ignored from the 25 years of UN action to assist children stuck in armed conflict.
Moreover, HRW said that while all of the secretary-general’s annual reports on children in armed conflict include data on children who have been “maimed,” they are not concerned with their rights as children with disabilities. Further, although the word “maiming” is used in international humanitarian law, HRW requested the UN to use another word to describe violations against children because “maiming” is incompatible with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Deputy Disability Rights Director at HRW Jane Buchanan said, “governments, the UN Security Council, UN agencies, and aid groups should urgently step up efforts to protect and assist children with disabilities as part of their commitments toward children affected by hostilities.”