Children and Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities in Humanitarian Settings

  • Vanessa Cavallera
  • Ramzi Nasir
  • Kerim Munir


Developmental disabilities (DD) refer to a wide range of conditions manifesting in childhood by affecting skills normally acquired in infants and children over time (such as motor and communication skills as well as overall learning abilities) and typically persisting into adulthood. Despite the formal protection of an existing legal framework that includes the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, children with DD are an invisible and vulnerable group in any setting because they cannot advocate for their needs and rights. Due to their disability, children with DD face enormous challenges, including being victims of neglect, discrimination, and abuse; their vulnerabilities are amplified further by forced displacement. In humanitarian contexts, children with DD encounter disproportionately greater difficulties than other children in removing themselves from harm, in coping with the impact of a humanitarian crisis, and in adapting to the resulting changes ensuing in their lives. Additionally, caregivers are also impacted by the emergent situation and are often not able to attend to their children’s needs. This chapter provides some basic knowledge that all cadres working with victims of humanitarian crisis, including academicians, clinicians, as well as humanitarian workers with different focus areas, should have on children with DD. It includes descriptions of the particular challenges faced by this population of displaced children, common manifestations, and recommendations for their management in migration and resettlement. Key resources that supplement this chapter are listed when related topics are discussed.


Developmental disorders Intellectual disabilities Cognitive delays Autism spectrum disorders Emergencies Humanitarian Pediatrics 



We’d like to acknowledge for review of chapter Dr. Karen Olness (Case Western Reserve University), Dr. Daniel Martinez Garcia (Medecins Sans Frontieres), Dr. Ana Maria Tijerino (Medecins Sans Frontieres), Dr. Ilgi Ertem (Ankara University), as well as the review and encouragement of Dr. Judy Palfrey (Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard University)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Vanessa Cavallera
    • 1
  • Ramzi Nasir
    • 2
  • Kerim Munir
    • 3
  1. 1.Independent ConsultantMilanItaly
  2. 2.Consultant in Developmental Behavioral PediatricsLondonUK
  3. 3.Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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