First Lady Margaret Kenyatta has called for the acceptance, inclusion and equitable opportunities for children living with disabilities especially Autism Spectrum Disorders.
Speaking during the 10th Annual World Focus on Autism in New York on Tuesday, the First Lady noted that one of the greatest challenges facing children living with disability in Kenya and many other countries is that they are still being hidden or denied the right to care, health and education.
“In many instances, parents do not have enough knowledge or funds to support children with disabilities,” she said.
Autism is a pervasive neuro-developmental condition which effects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others.
The First Lady said diagnosis of autism is difficult because of scarce facilities for testing the disorder.
“As a result (of scarcity of testing facilities), many children are being left behind in the realization of their fundamental rights,” she said at the ceremony where she was joined by her counterparts from Cyprus and Serbia Andri Anastasiades and Tamara Vucic respectively.
The First Lady said the prevalence of Autism and many other intellectual disabilities has not been well captured in many developing countries including Kenya.
“Lack of data has made it challenging to quantify the extent of the problem (autism) in Kenya, and I expect this to be the same for many low to middle income countries,” The First Lady observed.
She said disability, especially among children, is one area she is committed to addressing as a key intervention for the next five years through her Beyond Zero Foundation.
“I have therefore committed, through my Beyond Zero Strategic Framework 2018 to 2022, to advocate for data collection as an immediate action for children with disability,” she said.
Besides data collection, First Lady Margaret Kenyatta is also advocating for the registration, integration and facilitation of children living with disability to access health services and social protection.
She said this work has already started through the recently launched medical safaris and camps which offer specialized services to assess affected children.
“We will work with communities to address the cultural narratives that undermine fairness, tolerance and inclusion within individual families and communities,” said the First Lady.
She said under the new health service delivery medical safari model, Beyond Zero will promote initiatives that support specialized training such as the Skills Training Program for caregivers of children with developmental disorders.
“It is my hope that we will embrace our special children; that we will love and accept them and that we will let them take their place in the world,” she said