COVID-19 & Children with Disability

Many children with disabilities currently face multiple barriers which may prevent them from accessing information, education and health care.

Some of the challenges that children with disabilities face include:

  • Lack of access to health information or services. Children with disabilities and their carers may not receive accessible, age-appropriate information about the spread and prevention of COVID-19. If they contract COVID-19, children with disabilities face additional barriers accessing timely and appropriate health care.
  • Increased stigma. Stigma attached to COVID-19 is likely to compound the stigma attached to disability, particularly for those who are unable to maintain social distancing from their carers or support workers.
  • Lack of access to education. With the move to distance learning, there is a risk of children with disabilities losing access to educational resources (such as teacher’s aides in the classroom), and to inclusive teaching methodologies.
  • Increased exposure to violence, including sexual violence, physical and emotional abuse. Children with disabilities, and especially girls, are disproportionately more at risk of violence and sexual abuse.
  • Inaccessible interventions. Mainstream interventions often fail to consider the specific situations of children with disabilities. A lack of accessible information or inaccurate and misleading communication may result in increased fears and difficulties in accessing needed services.
  • Job loss, financial and other stresses affect poorer and marginalised families more significantly. Some of these stresses include less ability to juggle work and childcare, parenting and home-schooling; pressure to teach children when parents themselves may have lower education and literacy levels or may not speak the language of instruction; and facing limited child care options for children with disabilities, preventing parents from maintaining livelihoods or growing food and collecting water for household water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) needs. These stresses can lead to:
    • Reduced priority given to needs of children with disabilities amongst siblings within families.
    • Family violence due to heightened financial and emotional stress.
    • Both boys and girls expected to undertake labour and domestic tasks.
    • Reduced access to food and nutrition, especially for girls and women.

It is crucial that COVID-19 policy and programming response measures fully address disability-inclusive child protection issues and create opportunities for families of children with disabilities to take active roles in designing and delivering COVID-19 and child protection responses. Failing to do this risks exposing children with disability to factors that will affect their health, safety and general wellbeing.

UNICEF (2020) Ensuring an inclusive return to school for children with disabilities

This guidance has been produced by CBM Australia for UNICEF’s East Asia and the Pacific Regional Office and UNICEF Australia. The document is intended for UNICEF staff, education policy makers and planners in the East Asia and Pacific Region. Its purpose is to provide guidance on critical considerations and actions that should be undertaken to ensure an inclusive return to school for children with disabilities, as children return to school after the temporary closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UNICEF (2020) COVID-19 Minimum Care Package for Children with Disabilities

Children with disabilities are children first, and are part of the diversity of humanity. This document identifies key risks, minimum care interventions and links to useful resources to ensure that children with disabilities are not forgotten during the COVID-19 response, and that their barriers are addressed.

UNICEF Children with Disabilities and COVID-19 Frontline Response

This guidance has been produced for UNICEF’s East Asia and the Pacific Regional Office and UNICEF Australia. This document is intended for frontline workers, including UNICEF partners, health personnel, social workers, teachers, help line staff and community volunteers engaged in the COVID-19 response. It is recommended that this document is read in conjunction with the Minimum Care Package, CBM’s Disability Inclusion in COVID-19 Preparedness and Response guidance note,UNICEF’s EAPR Child Protection Emergency Preparedness and Response to COVID-19 and the global Technical Note: Protection of Children during the Coronavirus Pandemic.

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