Caring for Vietnam's 'invisible' disabled children

New Straits Times

Illuminating many of the observations and conclusions from the UNICEF State of the World’s Children report on children with disabilities, the New Straits Times has published an article on the state of children with disabilities in Vietnam. According to the article, Vietnam has some of the highest rates of child disability in the world, which it attributes to the nation’s legacy of decades of war and particularly to the country’s exposure to the defoliant “Agent Orange” used in warfare. The article states that up to three million Vietnamese people were exposed to dioxin in Agent Orange, and that one million suffer grave health repercussions today, including at least 150,000 children born with birth defects.

Many Vietnamese families feel they are unable to provide the necessary care to their children with disabilities, and as a result, Vietnam has roughly 20,000 children in institutional care, over half of whom are disabled. Institutionalization can prove harmful to these children. Families in Vietnam currently receive minimal support to help them to care for their children with disabilities. The Vietnamese government has publicly committed to action to help the country’s disabled population and has signed, but not ratified, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and is looking at piloting cash benefits to support families with disabled children next year, according to the article. Furthermore, UNICEF has a pilot scheme in Danang to provide day care to children with disabilities, which, if successful, could be expanded. The UNICEF report on children with disabilities calls for more inclusive policy and practice that better integrates children with disabilities into society and the article indicates that this is an area in which Vietnam needs to improve. As one Vietnamese girl says “the most important thing is for people to treat us equally.”