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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;

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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.

Signing Safe Futures South Africa!

Photograph of stacks of decision docketsWith our partners Childline South Africa, Child Helpline International and the UK Police Link Officer for the Deaf scheme, we’ve commenced a two year development / pilot activity aimed at establishing Africa’s first dedicated helpline capacity for responding to the protection needs of D/deaf children and young people.

Funded by Comic Relief, this progressive work sees the training and deployment of a dedicated D/deaf aware staff team within Childline South Africa. It addition, it will see the development, trialling and evaluation of an innovative new Video Relay service so that D/deaf children and young people may access ready online Childline counselling support, in the communication mode of choice; be it sign language, sign supported spoken language or community-sign. Furthermore, UK Police will work with the South African Police to establish a local Police Link capacity which will respond appropriately to disclosure by D/deaf children, as and when it occurs, so that the best care and support can be made available to them and their families.

This is a sizable initiative and one that will deliver a global impact, making a difference to the lives of thousands. From these beginnings, DeafKidz International will work to develop a Video Relay practice and methodology, which will transform the way that Child Helplines interact with D/deaf children and young people. Such that in 10 years time; every D/deaf child will be able to access Helpline support, wherever they are and whatever the issue. Job done!

For now, we’re building the service architecture, collaborating closely with the likes of EPCAT Luxembourg – to ensure we’ve got the language & terminology of abuse right; Childline’s Kenya and Zimbabwe – to where cascade will occur once South Africa is proven; technical Video Relay providers in the US – to ensure we have an operating platform that is robust and capable. Over and above all of this, we’re working to ensure our service design reflects the protocols of the WHO’s End Violence initiative and UNICEF’s Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. We’re looking to demonstrate that through the assembly of powerful partnerships and through auspicious programme design, the protection needs of D/deaf children and young people can, indeed, be realised and their susceptibility to the risk of violence, mitigated.

Setting a Pace; Making a Difference – DeafKidz International Jamaica

Two Satisfied DKI / JAD Parenting Course Graduates at May Pen Unit for the Deaf

Two Satisfied DKI / JAD Parenting Course Graduates at May Pen Unit for the Deaf

Our Jamaica programme continues to make a difference to D/deaf children and young people in this most challenging of environments. Through the medium of sport and dance activities, safeguarding messages and learning is disseminated to D/deaf children so that they can self-assert and say ‘No!’ to abuse. Through a series of school and community group based activity programmes, they are using sport and dance to ascertain identity, develop confidence and demonstrate, peer to peer, best practice. The discipline and rigour of both sport and dance facilitating the acquisition of critical safeguarding and protection skills for life.

The parenting element of the programme continues to change lives; 22 parents have just completed a 13 week parenting course at the May Pen Unit for the Deaf, West of Kingston. This progressive course has seen parents complete a Level 1 course in Jamaican Sign Language and Deaf Culture. Furthermore, the course has enabled the participating parents to bond and develop their own support networks; essential when bringing up a D/deaf child.

In partnership with the Jamaican Constabulary, UK Police Link Officer’s for the Deaf have just completed a criminal justice workshop aimed at introducing policing and criminal justice professionals to the intricacies of responding to the safeguarding needs of D/deaf children. Attended by Mrs. Justice Zaila McCalla, Chief Justice of Jamaica and a number of District Judges, the course was a precursor to the Police Link Officer development programme that DeafKidz International will deliver in partnership with UK Police. This is a significant undertaking and one that will cross reference with similar work with the South African Police and the Zimbabwe Republic Police; both being delivered by DeafKidz International and UK Police in partnership with, respectively, ChildLine South Africa and ChildLine Zimbabwe.

There are other aspects to the growing Jamaica programme too; the piloting of a new Video Relay Interpreting service for use in health and criminal justice settings and the piloting of a New Born Screening programme in partnership with the Ministry of Health and the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO). All of which is underpinned by a new DeafKidz International / Jamaica Association for the Deaf business development partnership, aimed at ensuring sustainability on the basis of evidenced impact. Our second global conference on responding to the needs of D/deaf children and young people in low resource settings is to be held in Jamaica in 2017. There we will be presenting, with a number of our stakeholders and partners, the work we’ve undertaken in Jamaica and tabling our critical path for cascade across the Caribbean. Together, we’ll leave no D/deaf child behind in the Caribbean.

The Migrant Crisis – Advocating for a D/deaf Inclusive Response

Photograph of a girl with a puppetWe’re continuing to respond to the needs of D/deaf children trapped in the migrant crisis where the challenges they face, it goes without saying, are complex. Whilst we may be dealing, initially, with ear & hearing care needs, these don’t stand alone; they are intrinsically linked to safeguarding, protection, healthcare, speech & language developmental needs and more. If as a D/deaf child you are unable to communicate, you become removed, marginalised, from other children, your own family and from your own parents, even. Withdrawal occurs and with it, comes a lethargic reluctance to engage in the most basic of communication. With family members busy trying to cope with the shifting pressures inherent within a migrant camp, the development of speech and the acquisition of language, which is an absolute essential for D/deaf children and young people, is hampered. This, in turn leads to an inability to self-advocate, self-represent and a resultant increased risk of abuse such as abduction and trafficking.

We’re determined to address this and over the next few weeks will be preparing heads of terms for an all-new, European wide, assessment of the needs of D/deaf migrant children and young people. Conducted in association with a number of key partners, this work will pave the way for true and life changing inclusion.

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