Disabled children are four times more likely to be victims of violence in their lifetime compared to non-disabled children, research warns.

A systematic review in The Lancet of almost 20 years of data suggests that an estimated one in four disabled children can expect to experience violence at some point in their lifetime.

Mark Bellis and colleagues at Liverpool John Moores University found a series of studies covering almost 18,000 children worldwide and analysed and reviewed the data. They found that 26.7 percent of disabled children have been exposed to some sort of violence during their lifetime.

Disabled children appeared to have a three times higher risk of suffering sexual violence.

Those children who had a mental disability were found to have a higher risk of sexual violence than those with non-mental disabilities.

"The impact of child's disability on their quality of life is very much dependent on the way other individuals treat them. This research establishes that the risk of violence to children with disabilities is routinely three to four times higher than that of non-disabled children. It is the duty of government and civil society to ensure that such victimisation is exposed and prevented," said Bellis

Fewer support services

"Estimates are missing for most regions of the world, particularly low-income and middle-income countries. This is a fundamental gap that needs to be addressed because these countries generally have higher population rates of disability, higher levels of violence, and fewer support services than do high-income countries."

Dr Etienne Krug, director of WHO's Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability, which contributed to the study, said: "The results of this review prove that children with disabilities are disproportionately vulnerable to violence and their needs have been neglected for far too long.

"We know that specific strategies exist to prevent violence and mitigate its consequences. We now need to determine if these also work for children with disabilities. An agenda needs to be set for action."