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.

Download Full Research