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Signing Safe Futures 2018

Photograph of Steve CrumpSteve Crump, DeafKidz International’s founder and Executive Director, reflects upon the challenges and opportunities facing DeafKidz International in 2018;

‘As we look ahead to DeafKidz International’s participation in the Global Health and Innovation Conference in New York, it is opportune to reflect on the growth and achievement of the last 12 months. And there is much to reflect upon; the completion of the ambitious ‘Advancing DeafKidz Jamaica!’ programme which saw more than 3400 D/deaf children access protection and safeguarding messaging, more than 1500 parents participate in safeguarding workshops, more than 150 criminal justice system professionals participate in Deaf awareness activity… And for the D/deaf children who were empowered to disclose the abuse they’d experienced; clinical, social welfare and criminal justice support in the communication mode of choice… For an evidence based organisation this is hugely significant as we work to document the evidence we’ve accrued to demonstrate need, to evidence impact and to ensure that all important long term donor / partner investment…

Our developing key message is very simple… The abuse and exploitation of D/deaf children and young people – particularly D/deaf girls and young women – is endemic. As a D/deaf led organisation fostering the integration of D/deaf and hearing, we’re not having that…

All of the learning, practice and change from the Jamaica programme has now been embedded, systematically, into Jamaica’s child protection framework and longevity has been secured through funding from the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. Now working to address the challenge of Gender Based Violence, our Jamaica programme, delivered in partnership with the Jamaican Association for the Deaf, will see female coaches resourced to use the medium of martial arts and dance to ensure no D/deaf girl is subjected to the outrage of physical, sexual and emotional violence… This in turn proving an approach to addressing Gender Based Violence against D/deaf girls and young women which we will be looking to cascade across our developing footprint…

As we also progress our plans to conduct an Early Hearing Detection and Intervention pilot in Jamaica, in association with Kingston Public Hospital and the Ministry of Health, we will be working to ensure that all D/deaf female new-borns are instantly placed on a pathway of care; one that enables them to maximise their existing hearing, to self-advocate and self-represent… To be absolutely sure that this highly vulnerable group are able to say ‘No!’ to abuse…

And it is this Early Hearing screening that we’ve commenced in Pakistan in partnership with the Ayesha Bashir Trust and the Government of Punjab Ministry of Health. The training of Lady Health Workers to conduct simple screening tests is currently underway and we’re working to build an integrated capacity that will provide seamless speech and language, communication and sign language skills, parenting and mental health support in a pathway of care that is robust, sustainable and replicable. We’re currently testing our approach in Gujrat and drawing clinical support from our partners at the King Edward Medical University in Lahore. This is a three year programme and we’ll be working closely with the International Centre for Evidence in Disability, at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, to document the work effected.

Fresh from our joint seminar at the World Humanitarian Action Forum, the partnership with Islamic Relief Worldwide continues apace and sees the development of a Centre of Excellence for the Protection and Safeguarding of D/deaf children in Pakistan. This is a first for Islamic Relief and one that should see a model of best practice developed for cascade across the Islamic Relief global operation. It goes without saying, this is a hugely exciting opportunity for a start-up organisation like DeafKidz International and one which will enable us to learn and develop whilst impacting at reach and scale. Suffice to say, this is a unique partnership and one of which we are hugely proud.

Our partnership with Save the Children UK continues and we will be shortly presenting the findings of our research into the current European / Middle East refugee crisis and its impact upon D/deaf children; in particular, how the humanitarian community can better respond to the protection, safeguarding, communication, health, ear and hearing care needs of children trapped in the crisis.

Mental health and D/deafness is a big area for DeafKidz International and we shall continue to work with our partners at CBM and the International Centre for Evidence in Disability to test new approaches to managing this issue. Over 70% of D/deaf children in the UK experience some form of mental health challenge as a result of isolation, marginalisation and an inability to communicate. We can only surmise that in low resource and complex humanitarian settings this number is higher… We’ll get this evidenced and start looking at methodologies for responding to the mental health needs of D/deaf children…

As an organisation, we are working closely with our investment partners such as the Geneva based Oak Foundation, Comic Relief, DFID and Islamic Relief to ensure measured and sustained growth. This through the development of a funding model which secures investment in our programmatic work and also allows for investment in our organisational capacity. In addition, investment which allows us to establish a pooled fund for the protection of D/deaf girls and young women from Gender Based Violence. This, we have to say, will take some doing as few investors understand D/deafness, seeing it as complicated and expensive, involving scarce human resources such as sign language interpreters, speech and language specialists, ear and hearing care practitioners…

But we shall address this perception as we move forward, demonstrating empirically, through the use of health economic metrics, the value of our work in screening, the prevention of D/deafness – where possible through clinical intervention – and the use of communication methodologies, within a safeguarding framework, which will seek to maximise D/deaf children’s life chances and reduce their susceptibility to risk and abuse…

Given that the global challenge of D/deafness is greater than that of malaria and HIV combined – in low resource settings, poor maternal health and poor neonatal care can lead to as many as two in ten children experiencing some degree of D/deafness, from slight to profound; we’ve seen this in Pakistan, Jordan and Iraq. There is clearly much to do especially as in many places, a diagnosis of D/deafness leads to abuse, abandonment and, in some cases, death…

And so evidencing our impact is essential as, within the construct of our new, soon to be released, five year strategy, we look to demonstrate proof of concept which is led by D/deaf children and young people – by the ‘Kidz Board’ we will be establishing this year – and which consolidates our position as the global leader for the protection and safeguarding of D/deaf children. Through our work and with our valuable partners, in 2018, we will never, ever, allow a D/deaf child or young person to be left behind…’

Effecting Change – Ensuring Access to Justice

Our work in supporting access to criminal justice provision continues apace. In Jamaica, South Africa and Rwanda, we’re working with a range of civil society and criminal justice partners to ensure D/deaf children and young people are able to access criminal justice support when they experience stigma, abuse and discrimination. Support that will empower them to say ‘No!’ to abuse and to, quite simply, live safely and without fear…

We’re doing this through a multi-sectoral approach which appraises D/deaf children of their right to live free from abuse and exploitation; resources parents to embrace, communicate with and protect their D/deaf child; develops, implements and quality assures D/deaf aware and accessible criminal justice capabilities for responding to the consequence of abuse when things go wrong… This including the design, test and refinement of integrated clinical, social welfare and criminal justice pathways, which respond to the needs of D/deaf victims and survivors of abuse. Whether that abuse be physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect and whether the need is to disclose, access police support or secure sanctuary from violence…

A key driver for DeafKidz International is the need to address the endemic violence we see against D/deaf girls and young women. We’re doing this through creating attitudinal, systematic and procedural change…

Attitudinal – empowering D/deaf girls and young women to say ‘No More!’ No more intimidation, violence, sexual abuse, forced marriage, honour killings and more…

Systematic – getting protection and safeguarding agencies to see that their structures and systems need to be inclusive to the needs of D/deaf girls and young women; that clinical, social welfare and criminal justice pathways for victims and survivors of abuse need to be accessible…

Procedural – ensuring that established processes for responding to the disclosure of abuse are inclusive and that any subsequent actions – arrest and detention of the perpetrator – are sensitive to the protection needs of the D/deaf girl or young women concerned; mitigating any risk of secondary or further abuse…

None of this work is easy, but were committed to the long haul and to engineering change that is, both, evidenced and enduring.

In pursuit of the 2030 Agenda and Goal 16.2… We’re on it.

Building Upon Success – Positioning for Growth

An envelope with 'Child Kidnapping' written on itWe’re entering a new phase at DeafKidz International as we consolidate on the growth of the last 36 months and ready ourselves to undertake some substantive and demanding work. Work that sees DeafKidz International, a D/deaf led organisation, partnering with a range of key humanitarian, development and global health practitioners such as Islamic Relief Worldwide, War Child UK and Save the Children UK.

Building upon the success of our 3 year Advancing DeafKidz Jamaica! programme, we’re delighted to be partnering with the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation in pioneering an all-new initiative aimed at addressing the outrage of Gender Based Violence (GBV) against D/deaf girls and young women.

Based in London, Laureus is a global movement that celebrates the power of sport. It combines Laureus Sport for Good, the Laureus World Sports Academy and Ambassadors Programme and the Laureus World Sports Awards to form a unique organisation that uses the inspirational power of sport as a force for good. Laureus was founded by Richemont and Daimler and continues to be supported by them along with Mercedes-Benz, IWC Schaffhausen, Allianz and other partners. Suffice to say, we’re delighted to be in such august company and we look forward to a long and progressive partnership that sees D/deaf girls in Jamaica able to say ‘No!’ to GBV and, over time, the wider Laureus movement responsive and inclusive to the communication needs of D/deaf children and young people.

On other matters and in progressing our core child protection agenda, we’ve partnered with the Geneva based Oak Foundation to develop, test and cascade a range of child protection and safeguarding resources. Aimed at D/deaf children and young people themselves, these resources will be uniquely child led and child centred. To be developed in South Africa and Jamaica, they will see the DeafKidz International team work with a number of D/deaf children to ensure the media, language and content within the toolkits is appropriate to their needs. Similarly, we will work with a number of professionals to ensure that he content within their respective toolkits is also relevant and appropriate to the settings and contexts within which they work. This is a 36-month programme and one that sees the Oak Foundation investing in DeafKidz International’s governance, operating systems and human resource capabilities. This is a significant investment and one that will position DeafKidz International for measured, stable, growth. All of which will enable a robust, resilient and funded organisation that can deliver both results and impact. One that will ensure, quite simply, that no D/deaf child or young person will be left behind.

Ensuring Access to Family Planning Services

As a member of the UKSRHRN Group, DeafKidz International supports and is committed to the work of the FP2020 agenda. A global initiative that works with governments, civil society, multilateral organizations, donors, the private sector, and the research and development community to enable 120 million more women and girls to use contraceptives by 2020. Working on ascertained rates of D/deafness in low resource settings, that’s 1.8 million D/deaf women and girls. A sizable population that is hard to reach and which the SRHR community struggles to engage. We’re working with a range of partners to ensure D/deaf girls and women are able to exercise their rights to access sexual reproductive health provision in the communication mode of choice. We’re doing this through a multi-disciplinary construct that includes D/deaf awareness activity, support with accessible and inclusive programming, the design of SRHR toolkits and more.

The FP2020 initiative is based on the principle that all women, no matter where they live, should have access to lifesaving contraceptives. Achieving the FP2020 goal is a critical milestone to ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights by 2030, as laid out in Sustainable Development Goals 3 and 5. FP2020 is in support of the UN Secretary-General’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health.

To this end and coinciding with the 2017 FP Summit, DeafKidz International has contributed to and is signatory to the summit statement below. We will continue to, ceaselessly, ensure that D/deaf girls and young women are able to access family planning services. That no D/deaf girl or young woman is left behind;

Click here to read

Early Intervention – Maximising Potentials

In both Jamaica and Pakistan we’re working to institute Early Hearing Detection and Intervention (EHDI) programmes… Training existing healthcare workers such as Lady Health Visitors and Community Midwives to undertake simple screening tests for D/deafness. If D/deafness is suspected then we’ll onward refer to a dedicated ear & hearing care capability – whose workforce, systems and infrastructure, we will have trained and developed, where confirmatory assessments are undertaken – including OAE & ABR tests, or audiograms for older children – and then a specific Care Plan for the newborn, infant or child concerned determined. This is likely to be a multi-disciplinary package of support comprising hearing aids, speech and language therapy, sign language and other communication skills. For the parents of D/deaf children, advice on communication and parenting skills so that they can bond and communicate with their child, thereby reducing the risk of abandonment and neglect. If there any specific ENT complications that need addressing, then we will refer the child to a tertiary hospital for the care they require.

All of this support is afforded within a safeguarding framework which sees all stakeholders – healthcare workers, clinicians, parents and wider family members, plus the children themselves – receive child protection, D/deaf awareness and communication skills support. This to ensure that ALL D/deaf children and young people are able to reduce their vulnerability to harm and to stay safe.

Through developing this approach, we’re working to demonstrate that DeafKidz International’s approach is both cost effective and sustainable; that through using existing human resources and infrastructures we’re keeping costs down but maximising healthcare worker skillsets and capabilities. Furthermore, that through engaging Ministerial decision makers, we’re able to realise long term sustainability as EHDI practice becomes incorporated into national health care plans and delivered as a public health ‘standard’… This enabling D/deaf children to maximise the hearing they have and to, ultimately, fulfil and realise their potentials. As you’d expect, underpinning all of this work, is the collation of data with which to evidence impact, inform learning and shape future practice. Empirical data – quantitative and qualitative – that helps us to design community and participative services for the long term which precipitate systematic, procedural and attitudinal change… And if that means changing the law, as we’re seeking to do in Pakistan so that EHDI becomes enshrined in statute, then we’ll do it. Because as an organisation of D/deaf people that’s what we’re about… Ensuring D/deaf children and young people have access to the ear & hearing care provision, in the communication mode of choice, that they require.

Advancing DeafKidz Iraq

In partnership with the Iraqi Red Crescent we’re working to assess the safeguarding, communication, health, ear and hearing care needs of D/deaf Children and Young People in Baghdad City. Mounted from Amman in Jordan, our intervention will see a multi-disciplinary team comprising safeguarding, audiology and ENT expertise deployed, with IRC logistical support, to assess the needs of both Iraqi and Syrian D/deaf children. As a result of the ongoing crisis in Iraq, there are more than 250,000 Syrian refugees displaced into Iraq. This is a sizable population and one that places a burden on already stretched health resources.

This work draws reference from our early stage assessments of the needs of D/deaf children and young people in the refugee camps on the Jordanian, Syrian and Iraqi borders. Here D/deaf children are present but the agencies in situ – UNHCR, Handicap International etc – lack the specific expertise to respond to, particularly, their safeguarding, communication, ear & hearing care needs. Indeed, UNHCR readily admits that they are unable to provide qualified sign language interpreter support or clinical ENT support in the Zaatari camp where there are more than 40,000 children. Given that rates of D/deafness are high in rural Syria and Iraqi, there is likely to be a sizable D/deaf cohort within this population; a population whose needs we must work to address.

We’re adding value to this work from the learning that’s occurring as a result of our partnership with Save the Children UK. Here, in association with the Royal Dutch Kentalis, we’ve worked to prepare methodologies and materials for the assessment work we’re conducting in Greece. There’s much to be done and working in Iraq will not be easy – we have to rebuild an ear & hearing care infrastructure that has been devastated by both conflict and neglect. But with the support of the Iraqi Red Crescent and the wider Red Crescent movement we’ll do it…

Lawand Hamadamin – Update on the Proposed Deportation

Lawand HamadaminA Birmingham solicitor filed an urgent application on Friday 13th January forcing the Home Office to suspend the removal of six year old Lawand Hamadamin and his family to Germany. Removal was due to take place on Monday 16th January 2017. The Home Office made the decision under the Dublin Regulation, part of the Common European Asylum System from which the UK will effectively withdraw under Brexit.

Deafkidz International first encountered the Hamadamin family in the Dunkirk refugee / migrant camp in February 2016, where we worked to respond to Lawand’s communication, ear & hearing care needs. The family have been in the UK since June 2016 when they claimed asylum. They have been temporarily accommodated in Derby where DeafKidz International facilitated Lawand’s assessment and attendance at the Royal School for the Deaf. Lawand is in the UK with his parents and seven year old brother. However, they arrived in the UK via a number of other EU countries and the UK Home Office have decided to return the family to Germany for their asylum claim to be considered.

Aisha Abdul-Latif, solicitor acting for the family, said “The family are relieved that they have been given a chance for the court to decide if the Home Office should be allowed to send them to Germany. But the fact remains that the family have been through a traumatic journey to the UK before finding a place of safety here and any further disruption will only add to their distress, particularly for Lawand.”

The family will be allowed to stay in the UK until the application is considered by a judge which is expected to be within the next few weeks. Their stay will also be extended if the judge gives permission for a full hearing of the application which argues that the UK is responsible for the asylum claim.

The application that has been submitted on behalf of the family is for Judicial Review of the decision to remove the family to Germany. It is a two stage procedure – a permission application (decided on the papers) and, if permission is granted, a full hearing of the application. The application will be considered by the Upper Tribunal of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber. If the application is successful, the family’s asylum application will be considered fully in the UK and a decision made as to whether it is safe to return them to Iraq. To date, the substance of their asylum claim has not been an issue for the Home Office as removal is not to Iraq.

The Dublin III Regulation determines which EU state has responsibility for deciding if someone seeking asylum is to be given refugee status or subsidiary (humanitarian) protection. The first EU state through which an asylum seeker passes is usually considered responsible for the claim, even if the person did not claim asylum in that country. Given the UK’s geographical location within the EU and difficulties that people have in arriving in the UK from outside the EU, it is not unusual for the UK to ask another EU state to take responsibility for the asylum claim. Between January and September 2015, the UK authorities made over 2000 requests for other EU states to take asylum seekers back. After the UK exits the EU, it is unlikely that this option will be open to the UK which may therefore become responsible for every asylum claim even if the person travelled through another EU state.

Suffice to say, DeafKidz International remains committed to ensuring Lawand is able to access the quality communication, speech & language, ear & hearing care he needs. No D/deaf child should ever be left behind or forcibly dislocated.

For further information, please contact Aisha Abdul-Latif of Fountain Solicitors on 07930 302793.

Disability 2030 – A New Agenda?

Photograph of Priti PatelAt Portcullis House yesterday we welcomed Priti Patel’s commitment to addressing the needs of D/deaf and disabled people in low resource, development and humanitarian settings. ‘Disability should be entwined in “every single aspect of what we do in the development space as the United Kingdom”, she said. Furthermore, ‘Children around the world with disabilities are four times more prone to violence. That is just appalling’ Patel went onto say.

Whilst we welcome this announcement, we’re proceeding with caution… This is a Minister who was instrumental in cutting employment and support allowances for D/deaf and disabled people in the UK…. We’re also cautious because we take a view you can’t load D/deaf and disabled people into one overarching cohort and call it ‘the disabled’. So we’ll be looking to work with DFID, through our Special Representative and other networks, to ensure this distinction is understood; that there is a phonocentric differentiation and that the intricacies of communication, linquistics and culture, as experienced by D/deaf children and young people and their families, are noted. Interestingly, this is where initiatives such as the ADCAP, ‘Minimum Standards for Age and Disability Inclusion in Humanitarian Action’, are making some progress. In this eminent work, the communication needs of D/deaf people have been singled out for distinct attention, yet no-where in the Standards is there any mention of sign language interpreters or Human Aids to Communication… So we’re not quite there yet.

We’re currently looking at integrated pathways of safeguarding and ear & hearing care in Pakistan, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Jamaica. So we’ll be liaising with the respective DFID Health Advisers to demonstrate the uniqueness of DeafKidz International’s approach and to affirm, in a practical and positive way, how dedicated and specific provision for D/deaf children can really make a difference; that such approaches can be both impactful and value for money.

Leaving No D/deaf Child Behind – The Start of a Journey…

Professor Rashid Gatrad, OBE, DL, presents on the joint DKI / MIAT partnership in Pakistan

Professor Rashid Gatrad, OBE, DL, presents on the joint DKI / MIAT partnership in Pakistan

Our first Day Conference was an outstanding success. More than 60 decision makers from global safeguarding, health, development and humanitarianism, gathered at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health; speakers and session leaders from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Palestine and more.

The theme of the Day was ‘Leave No D/deaf Child Behind’ and to ensure this, we set out a challenge to everyone present; that they should look to integrate D/deaf children and young people into their programmatic planning and implementation.

To do this successfully means a shift in thinking. A new paradigm of empowerment that doesn’t see D/deaf children as a hard to reach group that require specialist and expensive support; support that never gets funded because it’s not ‘cost effective’. And so we go round in circles, effectively condemning D/deaf children, because of their D/deafness, to a life of poverty, abuse and marginalisation.

We’re not having that.

More advocacy work needs to be done, so we’re going to ramp up our efforts to ensure D/deaf children and young people are included at the highest level of global safeguarding and health decision making.

Suheir Albadarneh of the Palestinian Red Crescent reports on the challenges facing D/deaf children in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Suheir Albadarneh of the Palestinian Red Crescent reports on the challenges facing D/deaf children in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

And already, we’re having some success. As delegates to the Day Conference heard, the UNICEF global End Violence campaign will encompass the needs of D/deaf children and young people. An undertaking we will continue to progress with Susan Bissell and her colleagues in New York and worldwide.

And in terms of the challenge we tabled at the Day Conference? Again, we’re making some progress;

Save the Children UK’s commitment to fund our research work on the needs of D/deaf children in the current European refugee, migrant and asylum seeker crisis; the findings of which could have a profound impact upon Save’s programmatic design and planning work.

The Consortium for Street Children’s global strategy will look to include the safeguarding, communication and healthcare needs of D/deaf children.

The British Council is exploring inclusion of D/deaf children in its global work. In both Jamaica and South Africa we’re making progress.

The Day Conference was an experiment, a test, and it worked. We’re going to develop the Conference concept so that it becomes a global forum for stakeholders working with D/deaf children in health, development and humanitarianism, to look at the issues and challenges they face.

Next year the Conference will take place in Kingston, Jamaica. We look forward to seeing you there.

Exercising Rights – The Complexity of Sexual Health

Through our developing work with the likes of Marie Stopes International, Child Helpline International, British Council Caribbean and South Africa’s Health Economic AIDS Research Department, we’re emerging, quite simply, as the world’s leading authority on sexual rights and access to sexual health provision, for D/deaf young, people in low resource settings.

Our new sexual rights and reproductive health tool-kit draws reference the experience of our local partners in Kenya, South Africa, Jamaica and Zimbabwe. This isn’t a ‘first world’ resource imposed on middle and low income countries. It’s a locally informed and empirically evidenced kit aimed at healthcare professionals, educationalists, community activists and, of course, young people themselves. This is a resource whose design has been led by D/deaf young people and whose curriculum and content has been proven by those practitioners working first hand with D/deaf young people, in the most diverse and challenging of settings. Where the reality of exercising one rights to sexual health means making an informed decision re. sexual desire, intimacy, relationships, family planning, the issue of unplanned pregnancy, mitigating the risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases; ever more important in sub-Saharan Africa where rates of HIV are leading to a greater susceptibility to neurological disorders and cancer.

All of which evidences that the sexuality and the sexual health of D/deaf young people doesn’t stand alone – it’s a complex matter that is compounded by issues such as poverty, stigma, discrimination and violence. For D/deaf young women, these can mean displacement, being denied femininity, sexuality and the right for motherhood. For D/deaf young men, this can mean the need to understand male sexuality, identity and power; through which potential abusers are checked and the propensity for sexual violence reduced, especially in conflict situations where sexual violence is used as a weapon of war.

Empirical data on the Sexual and Reproductive Health, and Rights, experience of D/deaf children and young people is critically lacking. This hampers effective health and development planning and makes attaining target 3.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals a challenge. But with the resources we’re developing and in association with our partners, we’re looking to address this evidence and knowledge gap. Suffice to say, we’re on it and we’ll leave no D/deaf child behind.

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