The children with disabilities will be identified through a “comprehensive approach” in which capacity building of government and NGO health workers and disability service mapping will also be conducted.

An estimated 16 million people or 10% of Bangladesh’s population have disabilities of any form. UNICEF is funding this 15-month project. The ICDDR, B will implement this with the collaboration of faith Bangladesh.

The Shuchona Foundation, which is chaired by Saima Wazed Hossain, Chairperson of Bangladesh National Advisory Committee for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Member of the WHO’s Expert Advisory Panel on Mental Health, will give technical guidance.

Saima, the prime minister's daughter, while inaugurating the project at the ICDDR, B said: “Disability is everybody’s issue, it is something that we all need to understand better."

"We all need to work together, we all need to change the way we think of an individual or a family that has somebody living with a disability.

“We can learn as a community, as a country, and make our nation a success and a role model for the rest of the world,” she added.

While early intervention is a key to long-term success and making progress in addressing children with disabilities, there are no effective early identification measures in place.

For the first time in Bangladesh, this project will validate appropriate screening and diagnostic tools for identifying children with disabilities aged between 0 to 18 years in line with global measures, the ICDDR, B said.

It will also strengthen the capacities of frontline workers of Ministry of Social Welfare and Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.

The project will also help develop a referral linkage with appropriate service providers for different types of disabilities through service mapping based on facility information.

Best practices of the project and successful strategies will also be documented to ensure further scalability of the project components by the relevant departments and ministries of the government.

Speaking on the project Jean Lieby, Head, Child Protection Unit, Unicef Bangladesh said they believe this will have “a model intervention which will contribute to reducing the challenges faced by children with disabilities and their family members”.

Secretary for Ministry of Social Welfare Zillar Rahman and Director General for health services Prof Abul Kalam Azad were also present, among others.