By marking the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, the Coalition of NGOs for Child Protection in Kosovo – KOMF, is urging institutions to guarantee protection, inclusion and implementation of the rights of all children with disabilities.
Children with disabilities in Kosovo live in difficult situation and do not enjoy their rights to education, health and social welfare. It is estimated that only 10% of children with disabilities benefit from health, social and educational services.
Out of 43,000 children with disabilities, only 5,300 of them are enrolled in public schools in Kosovo. Meanwhile, 38,000 children with disabilities are left out of school. Teachers do not yet have the requisite training and resources to consistently include children with disability. It is recommended that the supply of trained and qualified specialists within education is increased with the aim of effectively integrating children with disability into the school system.
The quality of health services for children with disabilities is not in a good level. Health system is struggling to provide essential medicines and medical supplies for children with disabilities. The Ministry of Health and municipalities should provide qualitative health services, essential medicines and assistive equipment for children with disabilities.
The Law on Material Support to Families of Children with Disabilities does not guarantee comprehensive protection for all children with disabilities, as until now the Law foresees material compensation only for children with permanent disabilities. As such it discriminates children with temporary disabilities or partial disabilities. This law should be amended and it should provide comprehensive protection, including children with partial disabilities.
Children with disabilities in Kosovo face a lack of social services. At the municipal level, social services for children with disabilities are very limited. In some municipalities, social services are being provided by day care centers (administered by NGOs), but such services are generally depended by the support of foreign agencies and donors, while state support is not structured, stable and at the same time it is very limited. Municipalities, according to their legal mandate, must develop social services based in the community for children with disability.
There is limited information for parents of children with disabilities. Education of children with disabilities still mainly depends on capabilities, skills and knowledge of parents, who face numerous challenges and limitations in the system. Parents lack information and specific guidance on what they can do to ensure the full development potential of their child. Support and assistance to parents and outreach to vulnerable and marginalized groups are weak, fragmented and mostly limited to civil society initiatives. With no adequate and appropriate local services, many families feel incapable of supporting their children’s psychosocial development, physical rehabilitation at home and inclusion in schools and community life.
Transportation can be a significant challenge to families and children with disability, making reliable travel to another municipal district for rehabilitation service difficult if not impossible. In order for children with disability to enjoy a full and decent life, access to specialists such as child psychiatrists, psychologists, speech therapists, physical therapists and play therapists is essential.
Physical barriers to inclusion are also significant. There are public institutions, including schools, courts and CSWs that do not have the necessary lifts, ramps and auxiliary equipment that would facilitate use by all children with disability. Institutions should take all necessary steps to remove barriers for children with disabilities.