In July 2014, a national exercise to count and categorise Persons Living with Disabilities (PLWDs) according to level and extent of their physical impairments was launched with the objective of having a system that would guide decision making, such as the process of addressing their specific needs.
The exercise was in line with the Government’s policy of promoting equal opportunities and protecting rights of PLWDs, and to streamline efforts to support them.
However, two years down the road, one of the most pertinent issues in the rights and lives of PLWDs with regards to healthcare has yet to be addressed. The hugely successful community-based health insurance, Mutuelle de Santé, cannot cover special needs.
As such, PLWDs have to fend for themselves when it comes to crucial aids such prosthesis, wheelchairs, hearing aids, and white cane. Yet the costs of these aids are highly prohibitive to the average disabled person.
A prosthesis costs between Rwf220,000 and Rwf360,000, while crutches cost between Rwf20,000 and Rwf40,000, depending on the category. A wheelchair goes up to Rwf250,000. And a white cane costs between $40 and $70 (between Rwf30,000 and Rwf60,000).
But these items are not covered by health insurance, meaning the only way for a disabled person in need of them to get one is to dig deeper into their pockets or pray for an angel in the form of a sponsor.
It is, therefore, welcome news that the Government is already looking into ways of scaling up support to PLWDs, including helping them get artificial limbs and other vital aids through Mutuelle de Santé.
Because of these aids are indispensable to PLWDs, life without them is affected in such a manner that their ability to engage in economic activities are greatly hampered, thus confining many of them to life of destitution.
The road to middle income status should have everyone on board and that includes PLWDs whose abilities cannot be underestimated.