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Disabilities and rehabilitation

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Disabilities are increasing in all African countries, due to the rise in non-infectious chronic diseases, and increases in trauma injuries from road traffic accidents[1]. While polio is on the decrease, other genetic birth malformations such as spina bifida, club-foot and cerebral palsy still prevail. Although accurate data on disabilities is generally scarce, fragmented or outdated, recent surveys in four east African countries showed average disability prevalence at 6.25% of the population (Kenya 4.6%[2], Madagascar 7.5%[3], Rwanda 5.8%[4] and Uganda 7.1%[5] ). Data from these surveys suggest also that physical or motor impairments are predominant at about 40%.

Injuries and disabilities impose heavy costs on individuals and services. Road traffic accidents, for example, are estimated to cost African countries 1–2% of GNP, rising to 5% of GNP in some cases[6].

Provision of adequate rehabilitation services, however, remains a major challenge. Many countries do not have effective national policies, plans, or budgetary allocations for early prevention of disabilities, or for the mainstreaming of rehabilitation into medical training programmes. Lack of data further hampers efforts to put in place prevention strategies.

  1. WHO (2010), Injuries and Violence: the facts
  2. National Coordination Agency for Population and Development, (NCAPD) – Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS), 2008
  3. Rapport d’enquête « Coordination des Soins aux personnes handicapées, Ministère de la Santé, Madagascar, 2003.
  4. National Survey of Musculoskeletal Impairment, Biomed Central BMC, Rwanda, 2007
  5. Study of National Household Survey in Uganda, 2005/2006 Study of National Household Survey in Uganda, 2005/2006
  6. Report on Violence and Health in Africa, Brazzaville, World health Organization, 2010