6 July 2015 – In a unified push to make assistive products for children with disabilities more available, affordable and appropriate, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) was joined by governments, partners, leading disability advocates and NGOs at the first-ever forum to examine the global supply gap and identify ways to reverse longstanding deficiencies.  

“85 to 95 per cent of children who need assistive products do not have access to them,” said Shanelle Hall, Director of Unicef’s Supply Division. “Plainly, we have before us a defining moment in which we can use our collective expertise, knowledge and experience to right this wrong.”   

Assistive products are a critical component in bridging inclusiveness.  With the aim of transforming the commitment to every child’s right to health, learning and dignity into action, Unicef and WHO today launched a joint discussion paper, “Assistive Technology for Children with Disabilities”.

In 2014, Unicef procured $3.38 billion in essential supplies and services for children. However, only a small fraction of this total supported the procurement of assistive products.  There is tremendous potential for Unicef to expand its focus in assistive product procurement by applying successful strategies in product innovation and market influencing that has helped to realize efficiency, affordability and quality in a wide range of life-saving health supplies.   

Solutions will also require a more comprehensive understanding of the issues that limit access. For example, preliminary results of a global survey conducted by Unicef and the Global Alliance on Accessible Technologies and Environments (GAATES) reveal that availability of repair services is just as important as the provisioning of assistive products. 75 per cent of respondents in developing countries report that repair services are either limited or not available.  In many countries, regulatory requirements make it difficult for important diagnostic and rehabilitation equipment to enter the country.  Manufacturers sometimes face the dilemma of adhering to standard specifications while individual needs and demands can be so diverse.   

“The Unicef-WHO discussion paper, along with today’s forum, strengthens WHO’s Global Cooperation on Assistive Technology (GATE) initiative and is a definite step towards improving access to assistive products,” said Zafar Mirza, WHO’s Coordinator for Public Health, Innovation and Intellectual Property. “Assistive products can make a critical impact on the lives of children with disabilities – and can mean the difference between the enjoyment of rights and a life of isolation and deprivation.”    

Several participants agreed that most organizations and governments were only at the starting point in supporting industry to fulfil its role in the manufacture of quality assistive products. In many countries, if needs were to be truly met, the scale of potential government procurement would be unprecedented which means serious attention would need to be paid to strengthen local supply chains supporting assistive products availability, distribution and maintenance.  

Unicef’s forum on assistive technology runs for two days and includes an expo of supplies from leading manufacturers across impairment groups.   

The discussion paper and presentations of plenary sessions will be posted at:  http://www.unicef.org/supply/index_82298.html


Notes for editors:

For further information please contact the Unicef UK Press Office on +44 (0)20 7375 6030 or media@unicef.org.uk

About Unicef

Unicef is the world’s leading organisation for children, promoting the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.  

Unicef UK raises funds to protect children in danger, transform their lives and build a safer world for tomorrow’s children.  As a registered charity we raise funds through donations from individuals, organisations and companies and we lobby and campaign to keep children safe. Unicef UK also runs programmes in schools, hospitals and with local authorities in the UK. For more information please visit unicef.org.uk