This year, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) celebrates its 30th anniversary. It has since become the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history and has helped transform children’s lives around the world.
Not every child gets to enjoy the full childhood that they all deserve, children with disabilities face additional barriers at home, in the community and at school, and require support to participate alongside their peers. Every child with a disability should enjoy equal rights and opportunities to live their best life no matter where they are in the world. However, the rights of children with disabilities in emergencies are often overlooked and ignored.
Two years after fleeing horrific violence in their home country of Myanmar, the Rohingya camps of Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf in Bangladesh remain home to around a million Rohingya people, half of them children.
UNICEF is currently delivering safe water and sanitation for 250,000 refugees living in eight different camps. UNICEF and its partners have constructed more than 4,500 tube-wells and over 12,500 latrines to serve this population.
However, these sanitation facilities are not always accessible for the 14% of households that have a person with a disability. To address this gap in sanitation services, UNICEF and its implementing partner CARE Bangladesh have been working on a pilot project to install disability-friendly latrines to help people with disabilities have easier access to sanitation.
After UNICEF installed a disability-friendly latrine near their shelter, supporting Hashim to use the latrine has become much more manageable.
“He can hold the handles on the sides of the latrine when he sits, so I don’t have to hold him. I can just watch and make sure he’s okay that way,” says Monira.
Now, Sohel can make his way to the nearby disability-friendly latrine on his own unless it is raining, and the ground is wet. He can use the latrine comfortably and he has easy access to water from the attached hand-shower.
“With my feet it is very hard for me to use a normal latrine,” says Sohel, “but I can sit on my new latrine without hurting myself.”
Sohel’s family appreciates the time and energy the disability-friendly latrine saves them, as they no longer have to help Sohel with this basic human need. It also saves Sohel significant time as well.
“It doesn’t take him very long to use the latrine now,” says Sohel’s mother, “Before, Sohel would be very uncomfortable when he needed to defecate, and it would take him a very long time to finish in the bucket.”
Besides persons with disabilities, pregnant women are also benefiting from these latrines. Shamsun Nahar is 21 years old and five months pregnant. She regularly uses the disability-friendly latrine.
“The new latrine is much more comfortable to use for women like me. I never feel like I will fall down when I use this latrine because I can sit without bending my knees and there is a rail behind me to stop me from falling even if I lean back. It is very comfortable,” says Shamsun.
The community of persons with disabilities living around each of these latrines feel a sense of shared ownership. They feel that the latrine is for anyone who needs to use it, but specifically for persons with disabilities, elderly women and pregnant women, and anyone else who finds using regular latrines too difficult to use. Disability-friendly latrines allow people to be more independent and access appropriate sanitation facilities with dignity.
Rajuma is 6 years old. She was born with an impairment that affects her knees. “My knees are always biting me,” she says, indicating that her knees are constantly stinging. This keeps her from walking long distances or standing for too long without assistance. However, this never stops Rajuma from attending classes at her learning centre. With the help of a friend and classmate, Rajuma walks to school every weekday.