Armed Conflict and Plight of Children with Disabilities
Several case studies and research articles shed light on the negative impacts of armed conflicts on children's health, education, and psychological well-being. Additionally, these studies also present us with solutions to the challenges encountered. Unfortunately, just like the humanitarian action carried out, most of these studies fail to include the devastating stories of children with disabilities. Due to several intersecting factors, children with disabilities and special needs are victims of violence, social polarization, and deteriorating services; the marginalization of these children gets aggravated during an armed conflict.
According to a UNICEF report, children with disabilities and their service institutions are often the targets of violent attacks. For example, the extermination of adults and children with disabilities during the Nazi rule and the genocide in Rwandan psychiatric hospitals.
When it comes to access to health and education facilities, children with special needs are often disadvantaged during violent conflicts. Due to the deteriorating infrastructure, access to these facilities gets reduced for these children. Even when the institutions stay in place, rising costs during such crises hinder the families from availing the facilities. In the case of education, attacks on schools can stop any progress towards the inclusion of these children. Additionally, poverty can push the parents of children with disabilities to look for odd jobs and beg on roads in extreme cases, further reducing access to education. Moreover, research carried in Iraqi camps highlights the low enrollment of children with disabilities in the nearby urban schools. Unfortunately, facilitating these children is rarely seen as a priority by humanitarian programs.
Humanitarian workers are often seen discriminating against children with disabilities. This can be owed to a lack of awareness, stigma, and capacity of personnel. The lives of these children with visible disabilities are considered less valuable than those who don't have the disabilities, leaving them further marginalized.
Nonetheless, we must view the inclusion of children with disabilities as an investment in peace. Their participation in humanitarian response can provide practical inputs in conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction. Furthermore, prioritizing their well-being and safety can send positive messages to other victims and can benefit society in the longer run.