The world organization dedicated to children’s affairs, UNICEF, has launched a situational analysis of the lives and activities of children with disabilities. Called “The State of the World’s Children 2013: Children with Disabilities,” it is the latest comprehensive look at the lives of blind, deaf, speechless, immobile and mentally and developmentally disabled children around the world. According to UNICEF there is a need to fight discrimination and raise more awareness of disability, remove the barriers to social services, end separate institutionalization of children with disabilities, provide greater support for families of children with disabilities, involving children with disabilities in decision making and conducting more research and gathering more data to guide planning and resource allocation. In the case of Belize, according to CARE Belize’s director Evan Cowo, we have made some strides. In his address this morning he told the story of Doris Staine, who back in 2007 faced some difficulty getting into a primary school because her spina bifida condition forced her into a situation for which several primary schools could not attend to.
Evan Cowo – Director, CARE Belize:
These are my opinions that I found, and I do agree that there are some unfulfilled gaps, especially in the Health and Education sectors. Using a response that will define goals for NGOs and Government agencies, especially in the area of Education, would be ideal. We have, for example, parents that we can use as models. Five years ago, Marvin had some challenges in getting his daughter Doris at school. He used the Media. He used television, the newspapers, and he lobbied the community. Because of his effort as a parent, we were able to get Doris in school today. She’s going to Standard 3. Doris is a child with spina bifida.
Special Envoy for Women and Children Kim Simplis Barrow opened the event by explaining why this issue is important to her.
Kim Simplis-Barrow – Special Envoy for Women and Children:
We are addressing an issue that is very near and dear to my heart, Children with disabilities are one of the most vulnerable groups, and ironically they are one of the groups in our society that we have the least evidence-based information about. The situation analysis on Visual Impaired and blind children in Belize is certainly a significant contribution to the body of knowledge on children with disabilities in our country. This [report] builds on the 2012 [report] of children with special needs, and focuses on one of the most common or perhaps better known and understood disabilities among Belizean children. When we consider the situation of children with disabilities in general, I am sure we are aware of just how susceptible these children are to abuse and neglect.
Perhaps the face of Belizean children with disabilities is Rowan Garel, whose exploits on behalf of the Belize Council for the Visually Impaired (BCVI) have garnered him national acclaim and attention. He says that being blind gives him a different perspective on life.
Being blind might be seen as an obstacle for some, but for me and my fellow blind children and adults and people in general it is a way of life, and like it or not that is how it is. If you sit there and complain about things that are beyond your control, you will not get far in life. That is what I stand by.Being blind gives me an appreciation for things that many people would overlook. For example, if I hear something as simple as a gecko making noise on a ceiling, I can listen and wonder at this little animal that can make such a loud sound.