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Ukraine’s disabled children in dire straits, group says

KIEV —Growing numbers of disabled children in Ukraine are being condemned to life in orphanages and institutions blighted by neglect and abuse, an international rights group reported Thursday.

Disability Rights International said a three-year investigation found that Ukraine is expanding its orphanages and children’s homes, going against a global trend toward integrating the disabled into society.

Children in institutions in Ukraine are exposed to physical and sexual violence and live in danger of being trafficked for sex, labor, and pornography, the report said. The organization’s president, Laurie Ahern, said children with disabilities often are the worst abused and most languish in institutions their entire lives.

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There are no reliable numbers for Ukrainian children living in care: Estimates range from 82,000 to 200,000.

‘‘When most countries are closing institutions and supporting children to live in communities and with families, Ukraine keeps rebuilding institutions and orphanages,’’ said Eric Mathews, who led the research project. ‘‘We know they are dangerous on so many levels, and they violate children’s most basic human rights.’’

It is often easier and less expensive to institutionalize children with disabilities than create programs to integrate them into society.

Larissa Samsonova, director of the Rodyna day-care center in the capital, Kiev, said cultural issues are also a factor. Disabled children are still sometimes ostracized. She said she has worked with parents to reverse that tendency through public events such as musical performances.

Parents struggling to cope with disabled children worry they will have to rely on mismanaged government facilities.

‘‘Every day, new parents call us and tell us to take in their children, but we just don’t have the space,’’ said Samsonova, whose center cares for about 20 children.