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Learning Disabilities (Iraq/Afghanistan)

Volume 416: debated on Tuesday 20 January 2004

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To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment he has made of the number of people suffering from learning disabilities in(a) Iraq and (b) Afghanistan.[148085]

In Iraq, UNICEF are taking the lead, with USAID, on assessing the post-war state of the education sector. UNICEF are currently undertaking an education survey to be completed by the end of February. But due to continuing high levels of insecurity for staff of international organisations, and low-capacity in many parts of the Iraqi education system, it currently remains difficult even to mount a simple survey of the number of schools, classes, pupils and teachers-and only in a limited range of geographical areas. We therefore understand that issues such as the number of special needs students will not be included in the present survey. UNICEF do, however, have a strong concern for special needs and will be seeking to encourage the Ministry of Education to take action in this area at the earliest realistic opportunityIn Afghanistan, surveys show that one in three children suffer from iodine deficiency which can lead to goitre, learning difficulties and, in extreme cases, severe mental impairment. UNICEF have begun a national iodized salt programme and are working through Mother and Child Health Clinics to treat and prevent iron-deficiency anaemia