Latest News

The Migrant Crisis: Responding to the Needs of D/deaf Children and Young People

Photograph of a migrant camp100,000 migrants have entered Europe this year – and many, many, more will follow. There are D/deaf CYP within this migrant population…. We’ve met them and seen the appalling conditions in which they’re living and the insecurity they face. Accordingly, we’re working with a range of stakeholders to ensure that the needs of D/deaf children and young people trapped in this modern nightmare are met.

Pictured in a French migrant camp, this five year old is struggling to keep his cochlea implant serviceable in the wet, damp and dirty conditions. Furthermore, to charge the equipment that keeps his implant equipment functional. Rest assured, we’ll make sure this cochlea implant works and does the job it was designed to do.

We’ve seen that other D/deaf children lack communication support and therefore struggle to access the rudimentary healthcare and educational provision available in the camps. In this whole sifting flux of people, the protection of D/deaf children is also a key challenge. How do you mitigate the risk of trafficking and abuse, especially when the big INGOs are not remotely D/deaf aware? We’re on it and we’ll crack it through a process of structured consultation and D/deaf awareness training.

The French authorities may have started the demolition of the Calais ‘Jungle’, but this crisis isn’t going away and here at DeafKidz International, we’re settling down for the long haul.

The Global Partnership to End Violence Against D/deaf Children

Photograph of a child's eyesWe welcome the UNICEF led Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children. Children and young people should not be at risk of, or exposed to, violence at all. Ever. Yet in our work, the evidence is overwhelming. Physical and sexual violence against D/deaf children is endemic. We’ve evidenced it in South Africa and we’re doing the same in Jamaica, Zimbabwe, the Palestinian Territories, Pakistan and more… And as and when we have a critical mass of evidence to disseminate – we’ll publish it.

Our programme in Jamaica has encountered some appalling sexual abuse with the victims as young as 4 years of age and the abuse perpetrated by a parent. We’re not having that and rest assured, we’re working with our partners in Jamaica to ensure this case and others are remedied as best possible. But it’s difficult, D/deafness is a disability few agencies understand and it is expensive; it involves expensive human resources like Sign Language and Deaf Relay interpreters. To properly equip child protection and criminal justice professionals require specialist and costly communications training. So, ironically, whilst it seems everyone in Western Europe and North America wants to learn sign language and $ millions is spent on ‘BabySign’, few agencies want to fund the protection of D/deaf children. Because it’s complicated, involves huge communication barriers and everything takes so long. So the global health and humanitarian community just skim over things and pay lip service, labelling D/deafness as ‘disability’, a convenient and useful blanket term.

We’ll be looking to address these issues in our consultation with the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children; that the authentic D/deaf voice of DeafKidz International is heard at all levels. We’ll be looking to see that the Partnership’s work is truly inclusive and that in pursuit of Sustainable Development Goal 16.2, the nightmare of violence against D/deaf children is tangibly addressed.

We’re realistic though, this will all take time and it won’t be easy, but we’re on it.

The Trafficking of D/deaf Children in Pakistan

Photograph of a Pakistan skylineAs we continue to monitor our new-born screening pilot and also further develop our integrated ear & hearing pathway of care, we’re becoming increasingly aware of the distinct challenges facing D/deaf children and young people in Pakistan.

To our horror it seems D/deaf children and young people are being trafficked from Gurjat and other Punjab districts into Iran. Mainly, it seems for the purposes of labour and prostitution. In addition, we’re learning, D/deaf girls and young women from Bangladesh and Burma are being trafficked inwards, into Pakistan, for the purposes of prostitution. However, it appears that to date, no specific and dedicated investigative / assessment work has ever been undertaken in respect of this outrage.

Drawing reference from our work in South Africa and Zimbabwe (our report on the abuse and exploitation of D/deaf children and Young people in South Africa, ‘Behind the Green Door’ – funded by Comic Relief – met with critical acclaim), our partnerships with UK PLOD, IPSCAN and Child Helpline International, we’re looking at how best to respond.

As with our emerging work on the radicalisation of D/deaf children and young people, we’re moving carefully. We need to secure empirical evidence so that we can consider how best to proceed with the local D/deaf community and our global health partners – both locally in Pakistan and also internationally.

This isn’t going to be easy – communities and networks will close in to obstruct us… But we’ll tackle this, no D/deaf child should experience the horror of trafficking… Ever.

Advancing DeafKidz Jamaica! Sports Festival is a Winner!

Young girl at the DeafKidz Jamaica sports dayD/deaf children and adults from across Jamaica converged on the island’s Mona Bowl for the first ever DeafKidz Jamaica sports day.

The two-day event saw hundreds of children from schools for the D/deaf across the island compete against each other in netball, football, track and field and table tennis on day one, whilst D/deaf adults also joined the action for day two!

The festival was aimed at enabling D/deaf children and young people to participate in a fun sport activity which also, through a series of carefully planned activities, delivered and reinforced messaging on safeguarding, child rights and child protection. All of which served to raise awareness of abuse and how best to mitigate its occurrence.

Executive Officer of the Jamaica Association for the Deaf, Iris Soutar; “Deaf children tend to face stigma and discrimination which leads to low self-concepts. Thus, one of the aims of the sports day is to empower the children through sports. The Advancing DeafKidz Jamaica! sports day helped to provide numerous opportunities for developing self-esteem and self-respect”.

Poster for the DeafKidz Jamaica sports dayIn partnership with DeafKidz International, who provided development support and guidance, the Jamaica Association for the Deaf has worked to build a far reaching collaboration between the University of Technology, the Sports Development Foundation and Deaf Sport Jamaica. Working together, a robust foundation has been established; one that will enable future festivals to have an even greater impact as Stephanie McIntyre-Groves, Project Co-ordinator, explains; “This festival is a first. It builds upon Deaf Sport Jamaica’s existing work but enables us to ensure distinct activity around safeguarding occurs with both D/deaf children and, of course, their parents. This festival has been a considerable success and we were pleased to have the opportunity to continue dialogue with our partners at the British High Commission, UNESCO, UNICEF and DFID, as we work to further develop our programmatic work both in Jamaica and across the wider Caribbean. As a D/deaf led organisation with an authentic voice, we’re about getting things done”.

Countering the Radicalisation of D/deaf Young People

Wall art of angry eyesWe’re aware that in recent months, extremists have sought to rally D/deaf young people to their differing causes using a range of media including interpreted You-Tube videos. This is clearly alarming and its something we’re not prepared to see happen. We’re simply not having it – impressionable young people corrupted to some cause or other. No.

Consequently, drawing reference from our Child Rights & Child Protection work with the UK Police Link Officer for the Deaf scheme, we’ll be looking at the issue of radicalisation in the D/deaf community and how we can counter such challenges in the country of origin. Our expert advisers will work with us to devise a response that will look to address the challenge of extremisim across the broad spectrum of faith and belief. There’s a lot to do, but we’ll be presenting our thinking to a number of social investers and also at the International Conference on Children and Armed Conflict in Kenya next year.

You can be sure, we won’t allow D/deaf children and young people to be murderously manipulated by anyone.

Determining Ear & Hearing Care Pathways for DeafKidz in Pakistan!

Dr Ijaz Bashir of the Decent Welfare Society launches the screening pilot

Dr Ijaz Bashir of the Decent Welfare Society launches the screening pilot

Deafkidz International has been working with its local partner in Gujrat, the Decent Welfare Society, to trial a new pathway of care that sees immunisation workers conduct behavourial new-born hearing checks. This is aimed at identifying Deafness at the earliest opportunity so that an appropriate response can be determined for the new-born in question – this usually involving onward referral for detailed audiological assessment. The hearing check is very simple and can be conducted by any healthcare professional – using a rattle to see if the child responds to noise.

There are few consistent strategies for newborn, infant or child hearing screening so this trial makes use of an existing healthcare capacity – immunisation workers. As they are already engaging with new-borns, neonates and their parents, the hearing check test is added to their clinical task sheet. In addition, specific training is given in communicating with parents so that they can appraise and reassure parents of the next steps should Deafness be suspected. This in turn ensures early intervention and generates a health-economic return; with early detection meaning the better use of often limited and scarce resources.

The trial is centred at the Decent Welfare Society’s Bashir Hospital in Gujrat and once evaluated, it will be rolled out to other districts in Punjab. This sees DeafKidz International working to progress a locally led and driven screening programme, that supports the development of robust and sustainable public health ear and hearing care capacities. “We’re going to prove our case in Gurjat and get to a point where we have a national new-born hearing screening programme in Pakistan” said DeafKidz International’s Steve Crump. “There are many challenges to overcome, but with first class partners such as the Decent Welfare Society, we can achieve great things and really make a difference. We’ll leave no D/deaf new-born behind in Pakistan”.

Inclusive Child Rights & Protection Malaysia – We’re Pushing the Boundaries…

Photograph of Stuart Harrison and Emma Gilbert at the ISPCAN's 10th Asia Pacific ConferenceDeafKidz International Head of Programmes, Stuart Harrison, and criminal justice/policing adviser Emma Gilbert, of the UK Police Link Officer for the Deaf scheme, presented the case for inclusive child rights and child protection provision at ISPCAN’s 10th Asia Pacific Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect. Highlighting the learning from our emerging work in South Africa and our partnerships with both Child Helpline International and Childline South Africa, Stuart and Emma, presented on the challenges of ensuring D/deaf children and young people are safeguarded.

With the sexual abuse of D/deaf children a global outrage, Stuart and Emma urged the delegates to look at their own organisations and work to see how the rights, protection, communication and linguistic needs of D/deaf children and young people are addressed. And if not, what steps should be undertaken to ensure proper communication support and, thereby, access. As always, the lack of understanding and awareness of the needs of D/deaf children in safeguarding, policing and criminal justice settings was both staggering and worrying. And in some cases, their specialist needs dismissed with the wave of a hand. We’re not having that.

In low resource settings, poor maternal and neonatal care leads to high levels of Deafness, yet few recognise the real numbers – perhaps as many as two in ten infants / children. All of which suggest that high numbers of D/deaf children experience subsequent neglect and abuse requiring a safeguarding intervention. We can say that, because we know it happens; the evidence is there – D/deafness leads to abandonment, vulnerability and abuse. Yet safeguarding, policing and criminal justice professionals don’t know what to do – how to ensure a victim of abuse is afforded appropriate communication support during interview, how to use sign language interpreters in court settings and more. So we’ll keep going at this, till we get matters addressed and the millions of D/deaf children around the world get the just support they require.

Responding to the needs of deafened Ebola survivors

Photograph of an Ebola information sheetOne of the little known impacts of the West African Ebola crisis is that many survivors experience acquired D/deafness. Following a recent needs assessment to Sierra Leone, we’re looking at how the needs of newly D/deafened children and young people can be met. Having survived the horror of Ebola, many D/deafened children are being stigmatised and left to fend for themselves on the streets. Furthermore there is absolutely no provision for communication support, or speech & language therapy. Absolutely none as Steve Crump explains:

“It’s harrowing to meet children who are at a loss as to what has happened to them. The added tragedy being that many of the children are also Ebola orphans, having lost their parents and siblings to the disease. This is something we have to respond to”.

In partnership with WHO and a number of local NGOs in Sierra Leone, DeafKidz International is looking at how best to design and deliver a sustainable care pathway for D/deafened Ebola children. This is not easy in one of the lowest resourced nations on earth and where the threat of an Ebola resurgence remains, but our planning workshop in July will engage both practitioners and donors, as we work to ensure no D/deafened Ebola survivor is left behind.

Advancing DeafKidz Jamaica! Hits the breakfast TV screens

Stephanie Groves-McIntyre, Development Officer for the DeafKidz International programme, Advancing DeafKidz Jamaica!, and students from the Lister Mair/Gilby High School for the Deaf in the TV studioStephanie Groves-McIntyre, Development Officer for the DeafKidz International programme, Advancing DeafKidz Jamaica!, and students from the Lister Mair/Gilby High School for the Deaf found themselves on national TV as they demonstrated their dance moves to promote the Comic Relief funded venture!

They were adorning the nation’s TV screens to promote the work of DeafKidz International whilst also celebrating the work of the Jamaican Association for the Deaf during its Thanksgiving Week Celebration.

Timed to coincide with Jamaica’s National Child Month, there is much to praise with a whole host of activities and events taking place as Stuart Harrisons from DeafKidz International commented; ‘Everyone has been invited to attend the Jamaican Deaf Dance Festival, which is a partnership between Advancing DeafKidz Jamaica! and the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission. To be opened by the British High Commissioner to Jamaica, His Excellency David Fitton and by Mrs Hisae Fitton, the festival will empower D/deaf children, to affirm their rights to stay safe and live without the threat of abuse.’

All of which adds value to DeafKidz International’s growing programme of child rights and child protection activity. ‘From the success of our work in Jamaica we are now looking at a wider DFID and UNICEF’ said Stuart. ‘Be assured, we will never leave any D/deaf child behind.’

Kenya – Tackling the challenge of exercising sexual & reproductive health rights

Photograph of a box of unopened condomsWe’ve been working with Marie Stopes Kenya to ensure D/deaf adolescents and young adults are able to exercise their sexual and reproductive health rights. To this end, we’ve looked at current sexual healthcase practice to determine how best this important provision can be made available to D/deaf young people. Given that rates of HIV infection amongst D/deaf young people in Kenya, are higher than those for hearing, we have a real challenge here – to ensure messaging on safe sex and family planning are appropriately articulated and, thereby, susceptibility to HIV reduced. In addition, that clinical pathways are adjusted to encompass the distinct communication, linguistic and cultural needs of D/deaf young people.

There’s much to do and we shall continue to progress this vital work, as we look to configure a joint Marie Stopes / DeafKidz International sexual and reproductive health approach that can be cascaded globally across low resource healthcare settings.

And, as always, we’ll leave no D/deaf child or young person behind!

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