Refugees with disabilities (RWDs) suffer the weight of double vulnerability: on the one hand,
they are vulnerable because they are in a forced displacement; on the other hand, they are vulnerable because they live with a disability. Therefore, they feel specific needs pertaining to their disabilities. This study, conducted in Gihembe camp and Kigali city, has identified the unmet specific needs of refugees with disabilities referring to each type and severity of the disability.
The study has indicated that RWDs suffer various types of disabilities; physical impairment has
been reported as the main type (67.7%). Several causes compete for those types of disabilities;
the major one to which the interviewees often referred is illness, which is responsibl e for 52.6 %
of all disabilities.
The study has also shown that great majority of the RWDs did not study at all (40.2%) or did not
study beyond primary education level (35.9%). This maintains them in ignorance of their right,
for the education is itself a right and the means to attain one’s right. Lack of sufficient education
level weighs more heavily on girls than boys. Among 5 – 21 years old refugee children with disabilities, 74.6 % currently study. This proportion is made of 45.8 % of boys and only 28.6 % of girls.
The study also reveals that the RWDs in Gihembe camp and in Kigali city have very limited access to several essential services. Access to health care services is one of them. In general, 34.7% of the RWDs in both locations have serious difficulties to access health care services.
There are many reasons to this according to the interviewed RWDs. One of the reasons is the
distance between the health services location and the homes of the RWDs. The following reason
is the general topography of the country, Rwanda. This country is called a country of One Thousand Hills because it has indeed many hills; therefore the physically impaired people have
tremendous difficulties to accessing several places. This applies for water point and latrines also.
Lack of access to means of transport constitutes another challenge that the RWDs daily meet.
The RWDs who live in Kigali city are the more concerned as they are scatted in the city. So, in
order to reach the school, children with disabilities need specific means of transport; and this brings about financial problem since parents or caregivers have got very limited financial resources.
Considering the findings of this study, the following key recommendations have been suggested:
- Due to the finding that illness is the major cause of disability among our study population, primary health care should be improved and guaranteed to all refugee children in order to prevent such situation.
- Education infrastructure and services should be inclusive and accessible to children withdisabilities;
- Parents, care-givers and all refugee community should be sensitized that all children are equal and have equal rights to education;
- In order to promote inclusive education, teachers should be trained to handle and help each learner, including those with disabilities; (example: sign language learning);
- All the assistance and the services, especially health services, provided with the refugees should be designed to enable access by refugees with disabilities;
- Specialized health services should be available for the refugees living with disabilities;
- UNHCR and its partners should endeavor to address the RWDs’specific needs in providing them with devices such as crutches, proteases, hearing aids and wheeled chairs;
- There should be assistance and services aiming at increasing the income level of the parents or care-givers of the refugee children with disabilities in order to help them help their children
- UNHCR should advocate in favor of the RWDs in order that the latter included in the national program for PWDs.
- Regular training should be provided to different actors working with refugees to increase their awareness on the rights of refugees with disabilities.
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