Physical, psychological, sexual, and systemic abuse of children with disabilities in East Africa : mapping the evidence

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • SDG 3
  • Abstract:

    Abstract: Children with disabilities (CWDs) are at a higher risk of being maltreated than are typical children. The evidence base on the abuse of children with disabilities living in low- and middle- income countries is extremely limited but the problem is particularly acute in East Africa. We don't know the types of evidence that exist on this topic. This problem is compounded by the fact that key indicators of disability, such as reliable prevalence rates, are not available currently. This paper addresses this serious problem by mapping the existing evidence- base to document the coverage, patterns, and gaps in existing research on the abuse of children with disabilities in East Africa. An evidence map, following systematic review guidelines, was conducted and included a systematic search, transparent and structured data extraction, and critical appraisal. Health and social science databases (Medline, EMBASE, PsychInfo, Taylor&Francis, Web of Science, and SAGE) were systematically searched for relevant studies. A substantive grey literature search was also conducted. All empirical research on the abuse of CWDs in East Africa was eligible for inclusion: Data on abuse was systematically extracted and the research evidence, following critical appraisal, mapped according to the type of abuse and disability condition, highlighting gaps and patterns in the evidence-base. 6005 studies were identified and screened, of which 177 received a full-text assessment. Of these, 41 studies matched the inclusion criteria. By mapping the available data and reports and systematically assessing their trustworthiness and relevance, we highlight significant gaps in the available evidence base. Clear patterns emerge that show a major data gap and lack of research on sexual abuse of children with disabilities and an identifiable lack of methodological quality in many relevant studies. These make the development of a concerted and targeted research effort to tackle the abuse of children with disabilities in East Africa extremely difficult. This needs to be addressed urgently if the abuse of children with disabilities is to be prioritised by the global health community.