Including persons with disabilities within the design and implementation of development programs is a mandate of most major global health donors and principle of rights-based approaches. Due to a growing body of evidence of complex relationships between disabilities and other sources of vulnerability, including HIV/AIDS, this mandate may be especially critical to those working with orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs).
Due to stigma and other barriers that keep people from needed services, children with disabilities can be among the hardest to reach. In addition, OVC programs may include some children with disabilities, but those running the programs may lack the requisite background to meet the children’s unique needs. To optimize the effectiveness of OVC programs, those who design and implement them should be equipped with a basic competency in childhood disability, what it means for programs, and how it relates to other sources of vulnerability.
To help close this gap, OVCsupport.net hosted a webinar on Improving Services for Vulnerable Children through Disability Inclusion on Tuesday, February 17th at 9:00 am EST / 2:00 pm UTC.
The webinar featured three information-rich presentations with experts in the field, each followed by Q&A with the presenter(s).
Global Childhood Disability
Dr. Hannah Kuper gave an overview of childhood disability, describing what it is, how common it is, and what the impacts of disability are in the lives of children and their caregivers. Hannah Kuper is the co-director of the International Centre for Evidence in Disability at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM). Her focus is on generating evidence about global disability and health, particularly in low and middle income countries. She is an epidemiologist by training with nearly 20 years of experience.
Disability Inclusion in Development
Hitomi Honda introduced how a mainstream development organization approaches disability inclusion, and some of the challenges, opportunities, field realities, and promising practices, using examples from the work in the field. Hitomi Honda is Disability Advisor at World Vision International, and has been working in the development sector for over 20 years, three quarters of which have been in disability inclusion in development in the field (Vietnam and Kosovo) and at the head office of World Vision. Working with a funding office prior to moving to the field helped her learn both ends of development work. She studied Social Work for Bachelors in the US, and Disability Studies for her Masters in the UK.
Child Disability and HIV – A Two Country Study
The Community Care Study website can be found here. In addition, updates in the form of blog posts are sometimes posted here.
Prof Lorraine Sherr and Sarah Skeen presented on research that speaks to the relationship between childhood disability and HIV. Prof Lorraine Sherr is professor of Clinical and Health Psychology at University College London. She has written many texts and articles on child development and outcome with an emphasis on family and HIV infection. She is editor of 3 international Journals and has a portfolio of research for national and international investigations. She has sat on a number of policy bodies and initiatives such as the WHO, UNICEF, PEPFAR, USAID, Save the Children, REPSSI and the Coalition on Children affected by AIDS.
Sarah Skeen is a public health project manager and PhD student. She previously worked in mental health policy research, first as part of the Mental Health and Poverty Project at the University of Cape Town and then in the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse at the World Health Organisation. She currently works for the Department of Psychology at Stellenbosch University, on projects focused on evaluating interventions for child development, mental health and psychosocial well-being. Her interests include child and adolescent mental health, mental health policy, and research communication. She has a Masters in Public Health and is currently completing a PhD at the University of Cape Town.