PETALING JAYA: The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has warned Malaysia that failing to provide opportunities for children with disabilities to improve themselves can end up hurting the nation’s development and economy.
Speaking to FMT, Marianne Clark-Hattingh, who is Unicef’s representative in Malaysia, said a more inclusive society would also be more sustainable.
“Given the right opportunities, children with disabilities can become productive members of society,” she said.
“We need to be inclusive and provide these children with opportunities, otherwise we will be wasting the opportunity to have a really productive and healthy economy.”
Unicef recently launched a campaign to raise awareness about children with disabilities.
It focuses on the children’s abilities as opposed to their disabilities.
“Every child has a different ability and this includes children without disabilities,” Marianne said.
Unicef launched a study last year on the knowledge, attitudes and practices of Malaysians towards children with disabilities.
Marianne said the study showed that around 60% of Malaysians had limited knowledge when it came to children with disabilities.
She said the study had also shown that there were parents who attached superstitious beliefs to disabled children, including believing that the child was possessed or the family had been cursed.
“This misconception leads to discrimination and stigma of these children and the children are left feeling sad, excluded and lonely because of this.”