Children who have a disability are nearly four times more likely to experience violence than those who don't have one, according to a review of many studies that was conducted for the United National World Health Organization. WHO is asking for international action to protect the vulnerable.
The findings were published in the medical journal The Lancet, and show that children with disabilities are 3.6 times more likely to be victims of physical violence and 2.9 times more likely to be sexually abused.
The researchers said at least 93 million children worldwide have moderate to severe disabilities of some type.
"The results of this review prove that children with disabilities are disproportionately vulnerable to violence, and their needs have been neglected for far too long," WHO's Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability director, Etienne Krug, said in a press release on the review. "We know that specific strategies exist to prevent violence and mitigate its consequences. We now need to determine if these also work for children with disabilities. An agenda needs to be set for action."
Among the factors that make someone with disabilities vulnerable are discrimination, stigma and ignorance about disability, according to an article on UN News Service.
In all, the 17 studies that were reviewed included 18,374 children with disabilities from "high-income" countries, including the United States, Finland, France, Israel, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The UN article said that the findings underscore "the urgent need for high-quality research in low-income and middle-income countries."
"The WHO estimates that five percent or 93 million children around the world are disabled. These disabilities include physical impairments, such as cerebral palsy; sensory impairments, such as hearing or visual loss; intellectual impairment, mental illness or even long-term health conditions such as asthma or diabetes," wrote Voice of America reporter Lisa Schlein.
Children with disabilities are more likely to come from poor or isolated families, WHO's technical officer for disability and rehabilitation, Tom Shakespeare, told Schlein. He said children are particularly at risk if they are in institutions.
"The impact of a child's disability on their quality of life is very much dependent on the way other individuals treat them," study lead author Mark Bellis, director of the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores university, said.
The review noted that certain programs that are designed for children at risk of violence, as well as training to bolster parents' skills, have helped prevent violence against children who don't have disabilities. Such strategies are likely to work for children with disabilities, also, a news release with the study said.
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