Saturday, June 8, 2013

Our children get their fifteen minutes of fame

On May 30, the United Nations released its annual State of World's Children Report (online here), the first such annual report to exclusively cover children with disabilities.
The event spawned numerous articles, including a New York Times editorial:
One outdated estimate is that some 93 million children, one in 20 of those 14 or younger, live with a moderate or severe disability of some kind. The issue is how they might be helped to overcome their disabilities and become productive members of their societies
Disability Scoop, a site I discovered today serendipitously, was another one that highlighted the report. I was struck by the gulf between our gripes and those of parents of disabled children elsewhere.

Here we are unhappy - and justifiably so - about low staff/child ratios, meager hours of therapies and insufficient government assistance provided our children. The deficiencies that the UN documents are on a different scale entirely:
[The report] includes the story of Michael Hosea of Tanzania who has albinism and has been hunted by practitioners of witchcraft who kill people with the condition to use their body parts, hair and organs in charms and potions. In another case, Nicolae Poraico who has intellectual disability said that he wound up in an institution in Moldova where he was beaten by staff.
Even the existence of many of these children is elusive. UNICEF's executive director, Anthony Lake, described the lack of reliable statistics on disabled children as a "vicious circle":
"They don't get registered at birth, for example, disproportionately; then we don't see the pressure to develop more data. And since we don't develop more data we tend to see them less."
This is not to say that in our own countries people with disabilities are not seriously mistreated. In fact, the UN report  found that globally they were three to four times as likely as those without disabilities to become victims of physical or sexual violence.

The creativity of those abusers can be impressive. Just a few weeks ago, two care-givers at an institution for the severely cognitively and mentally disabled located in a calm, upstanding town in my country, were sentenced to several years in prison for their sadism. The judge stated that the defendants, women in their twenties:
"turned their charges into instruments of entertainment in order to satisfy their whims and instructed them to carry out sexual acts upon one another. The [defendants] also used to curse the residents while recording that on their cell-phones. In another instance they wrapped toilet paper around residents' heads then photographed them."

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