Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP)
Strengthening protection and inclusion of children with disabilities in Laos
In Laos, children with a disability are often kept at home, largely due to stigma and discrimination. Health, education, and social services are not commonly available to them, exacerbating isolation and limiting their opportunity to learn and develop like other children in their community. Worldwide, children with a disability are also four times more likely to suffer abuse and exploitation and seven times more likely to suffer sexual abuse.
Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) partner UNICEF Australia is supporting the pilot of a model of support for children with a disability in the country. Under the overall guidance of the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, the model aims to establish a network of community-based support and assistance which meets the individual needs of children and families.
As well as providing the foundation for a model of care and protection which will be extended to the entire country, this project is working to shift perceptions around disability. Due to UNICEF Australis’ work, stigma and discrimination are already decreasing in the targeted villages. Children with a disability are less isolated, are progressively attending school and have an improved quality of life.
Having a solid family and community support and services network also decreases their vulnerability to abuse and exploitation, especially given that all sectors – education, justice, police, health, social welfare – are involved in the model and are now aware of protection risks and strategies.
Ms Nang and her 8-year-old son have been involved in the project. Ms Nang has learnt how to perform basic home-based rehabilitation exercises and her son is now also attending school.
“Before I was really worried about my son’s future, and what would happen to him if myself or my husband passed away, but now I have hope,” says Ms Nang.