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UNICEF and WHO launch the first Global Report on Assistive Technology

Improving access to assistive technology for every child
16 May 2022
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Geneva, 16 May 2022 The first Global Report on Assistive Technology (GReAT) is launched today by The World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The report, produced in collaboration with UNICEF’s Office of Research – Innocenti, shares evidence-based best practice examples and 10 key actionable recommendations on improving access to assistive technology for every child.

 

Currently, 2.5 billion people need assistive technology worldwide. According to the report, by 2050 this number will reach 3.5 billion. The disparities in access to assistive technology between low- and middle-income countries and high-income countries are alarming. In some Low- and Middle-Income Countries access to assistive technology for those who need it is as low as 3%, while in high-income countries those without access is much lower, with up to 90% of people receiving the assistive products and services they need.

In this scenario, the global impact of the WHO-UNICEF Global Report on Assistive Technology will be unprecedented. The Global Report recognizes enabling environments and Assistive Technology as a precondition for people in need to realize their human rights.

GReAT recommendations

  1. prove access to assistive technology within all key development sectors
  2. Ensure that assistive products are safe, effective and affordable
  3. Enlarge, diversify and improve human resource capacity
  4. Actively involve users of assistive technology and their families
  5. Increase public awareness, garner political support and combat stigma surrounding assistive technology use
  6. Invest in data and evidence-based policy
  7. Invest in research, innovation and an enabling ecosystem
  8. Develop and invest in enabling environments
  9. Include assistive technology in humanitarian responses
  10. Provide technical and economic assistance through international cooperation to support national efforts.

UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti is at the forefront in the development of a Global Research Agenda and Platform for Children to amplify the voice of children and youth with disabilities through a network of academic institutions, researchers, policymakers, donors, and practitioners. As a complement to the Report, UNICEF and WHO wrote a series of 11 free-access background papers with the support of UNICEF’s Office of Research – Innocenti.

In this report, UNICEF calls on all stakeholders to ensure an intersectional equity approach in the design and provision of assistive technology that prioritizes those hardest to reach and most often left behind, such as girls, children with disabilities, ethnic and religious minorities, and other marginalized groups. Denying this right does not only harm individual children, and their families, but it also deprives societies of everything they could contribute if only their needs were met. 

In fact, the benefits to health, community, and the economy brought by Assistive Technology can be staggering. Investment in the provision of four assistive products - hearing aids, prostheses, spectacles, and wheelchairs - will result in a return on investment of 9:1

Research is fundamental to UNICEF’s mission. The struggle to safeguard the rights of all children in all circumstances can only succeed when supported by the most reliable, quality evidence and the latest appropriate knowledge. In 2021, UNICEF also launched a Center of Excellence on Data on Children with Disabilities with the objective of bringing the disability data community together to advance data and evidence on children with disabilities so governments can include their needs in policy and budget plans.

Access to assistive technology for the 240 million children with disabilities in the world is often the first step for childhood development, access to education, participation in sports and civic life, and getting ready for employment like any other children.