Call for user friendly facilities for PLWDs in refugee camps

People living with disabilities in Rwandan refugee camps have limited access to various services, according to a new survey.

People living with disabilities in Rwandan refugee camps have limited access to various services, according to a new survey.

The needs and barriers of people with disabilities in Rwandan refugee camps and the service accessibility surveys were released on Friday.

The two surveys conducted between December 2014 and February 2015 in all the five refugee camps in Rwanda show that refugees living with disabilities have limited access to sanitary, health and welfare services.

Releasing the findings, Maurice Kanyoni, a lecturer at the University of Rwanda’s College of Medicine and Health Sciences, who led the needs and barriers survey called on stakeholders to take action.

“We have found that most buildings providing services to refugees in the country are not user-friendly to people with disability. For instance, most of the schools in the camps have stairs which children with disabilities find difficult to climb, the reception desks at the food distribution are high and people in wheelchairs cannot reach there,” Kanyoni said.

“Most offices for the camp management have no routes for wheelchairs. Most of the toilets in the camps have with high stairs and people with disability cannot climb unless they are lifted where as others have narrow doors that cannot allow the wheelchair to pass through.”

Thomas Musafiri, a representative of people with disabilities in Gihembe refugee camp cited lack of orthopedic and prosthetics services among the other challenges faced.

“We have several people who do not have crutches, and wheelchairs. We are grateful for the services we are provided but user friendly facilities would ease our access to the services,” Musafiri said.

Nkurunziza Ndayambaje, who represented children with disabilities in Gihembe refugee camp, said stigma is among the biggest challenges faced by children with disabilities in refugee camps.

“For instance, if you do not have someone to help you negotiate the stairs to the toilets, you could easily soil yourself which attracts ridicule from classmates,” 15-year old Nkurunziza said.

Jean Claude Rwahama, the director of refugee affairs at the ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (Midmar), said the findings would help them make a statistical based budget.

“We will keep supporting them and basing on available resources, we hope to tackle some of those concerns as we have been doing since they arrived. I also think the findings will help us to identify the categories of disabilities they have,” Rwahama said.

Gallican Mugabonake, the operation coordinator at Handcap International Rwanda, called for awareness campaigns to address some of the concerns raised.

“Any kind of disability has a possible answer. There is need to train and sensitize the community on how to deal with people with disabilities. For instance, access ramps can be put on buildings to facilitate movement on wheelchairs. The challenge is skills on how to do such activities,” Mugabonake said.

The surveys show there are 1,687 people living with disabilities in the five refugee camps in Rwanda. There are 417 in Nyabiheke camp, 498 in Kiziba,376 in Gihembe, 266 in Kigeme and 121 in Mugombwa camp.

The 2012 general census conducted by National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) stated that Rwanda has 44,456 people with disabilities representing five per cent of the entire population.