CASABLANCA, Morocco — On July 27, the U.S. Senate passed this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The legislation contains a bill that will improve the lives of children with disabilities throughout the world. The author of the International Children with Disabilities Protections Act, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), explained that the bill will promote policymaking to help children with disabilities and the organizations and families supporting them, and will provide the latter with advocacy tools.
Children with Disabilities and Poverty
What this bill will achieve is significant considering the plight of children with disabilities throughout the world, especially in poorer countries. Today, a billion people globally live with a disability, and 80% of those reside in developing countries. This is concerning as poverty and disability are connected in a vicious circle – one worsens the other.
Having a disability can make it harder for someone and their family to access food. It also makes it more complicated to go to school and study, which leads to education deprivation. This and the general infrastructure deficiencies in developing countries mean that people with disabilities can be excluded from a country’s socio-economic life.
Children, as always, are more vulnerable in these situations. In certain countries, the mortality of children with disabilities can reach 80%, and globally, have a probability of being malnourished or underweight that is 25% higher than for children without disabilities. The likelihood of their being unhappy is 51% higher. Poverty aggravates these impediments, which in turn make exiting poverty more difficult.
Senator Menendez and Senator Moran (R-Kan), who co-sponsored the bill, particularly concerned themselves with the fact that many children with disabilities were taken away from their families and put into institutions that were not necessarily beneficial to them.
What The Bill Will Achieve
The NDAA voted on by the Senate authorizes $2 million to be spent in the fiscal year of 2024 and $5 million annually from then on to fiscal year 2029. This will enable the U.S. to support partner countries’ policy-making regarding the protection of the political and civil rights of those with disabilities. The policy also commits to promoting the socio-economic participation of people with disabilities worldwide through the development of programs and policies.
The bill also addresses the empowerment of people with disabilities and the organizations and families supporting them in order to give them the tools to advocate for themselves in the policy-making process. Programs will also be developed to encourage the making of legislation that will ensure children with disabilities are not institutionalized where it is not necessary, and families have the resources to take care of them. Legislation that ensures children’s access to the opportunities to fulfill themselves will also be encouraged.
By providing children with disabilities and the actors who support them with the means to defend their rights, and by promoting policies that ensure they are protected, this bill will help protect these children from hunger and poverty and promote their opportunity to live fulfilling lives.
The bill received important support in the Senate and was cosponsored by a group of 11 senators from both parties. However, Congress still needs to hold negotiations in order to harmonize the version of the NDAA voted on in the House with the version voted on in the Senate that includes the International Children With Disabilities Protection Act. Hope is that the finalized version will still include the act, as this policy is an important step towards supporting children with disabilities, and thus eradicating poverty.
– Kenza Oulammou