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COVID-19 worsens abuse, lack of access to services of children with disabilities —group

The COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions that came with it have aggravated the suffering of children with disabilities in the Philippines, according to the group Save the Children on Thursday.

"The quarantine measures exacerbated, as part of the impact of COVID-19, the current disadvantage that children with disabilities are already facing," Save the Children Basic Education Adviser Sierra Mae Paraan said in a Senate hearing.

Citing a rapid survey conducted last May, the resource speaker stressed that 48% of the 40,066 respondents have said that the quarantine measures barred them from accessing education services.

Paraan added that there is "clamor" for alternative therapy sessions as 43% raised concerns on lack of access to transportation.

Further, almost 25% of the respondents reported cases of child and domestic abuse.

"They are saying that the most common form of abuse is actually verbal or emotional," Paraan said.

Ten bills seeking to provide inclusive education for youth with disabilities are being tackled in the said hearing.

Meanwhile, the Department of Education said it has also crafted a learning continuity plan for special education but the home visits of therapists would be a "challenging" aspect.

Citing a 2018 data from the PhilHealth, E-Net Philippines Advocacy Officer Merzi Chan said around 5.1 million Filipinos children are living with disabilities.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the committee on basic education, noted the "huge discrepancy" between the said figure and the latest available data he has on the number of enrolled learners with disabilities which was at 231,000.

There are 676 special education centers and 2,885 special education teachers in the country during the school year 2017-2018, according to Chan. —LDF, GMA News