Plan International

New report urges the inclusion of children with disabilities in child protection

According to this report, led by SaME’s Dr Karen Devries, children with disabilities living in Malawi and Uganda are particularly at risk of experiencing high levels of violence. The Protect Us! Studycommissioned by Plan International, found that 84% of children with disabilities reported having experienced some form of violence at school in the previous week.

The team including Dr Devries and Dr Hannah Kuper, both of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), conducted qualitative research in Uganda and Malawi. They also analysed data from the 2015 Good Schools Study, by Dr Devries and Dipak Naker at the Ugandan NGO Raising Voices, to see whether a school-based intervention to reduce violence was also effective for children with disabilities.

The findings highlight the high levels of violence experienced by all children, and show that children with disabilities are at even higher risk.

Coupled with this higher risk, these children and their families experienced a number of barriers to accessing help in their communities. We are not without hope however—our analysis also shows that a school-based programme, the Good School Toolkit by Raising Voices in Uganda, can reduce violence against children with disabilities in school.

More research is urgently needed to explore what other programmes might be effective, particularly for children with disabilities who do not attend school.

– Dr Karen Devries, Senior Lecturer in Social Epidemiology, LSHTM

Protect us report  Click the image to read the report


  • Girls with disabilities are more likely to report emotional and sexual violence than girls without disabilities.
  • 4% of girls with disabilities surveyed reported sexual violence by school staff in the past week compared with 0.8% of girls without disabilities.
  • Children with disabilities find it more difficult to access support services when they experience violence. They lack information about where to go, find it physically tough to get there, are not be able to communicate with child protection staff or volunteers, or fear they will not be taken seriously.

People beat him up. Sometimes he comes back home crying and with bruises on his face, his body swollen from the beatings. He goes straight to bed and cries himself to sleep… If he was able to speak, he would be able to point out who does those things to him.

– A mother of a 14-year-old boy who has an intellectual impairment

Plan International is calling on governments to ensure child protection services are accessible to all children with disabilities. In addition, civil society organisations must develop targeted programmes to prevent and respond to violence against children with disabilities, as well as ensure concrete steps are taken to make sure mainstream child protection programmes are accessible and inclusive.

Read an overview of our research in this field.

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Image: A girl at a workshop on child protection. Copyright: Plan International

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