Representatives of councils of persons with disabilities across the East African Community (EAC) bloc have urged governments in the region to fully integrate them in development and anti-poverty initiatives.
They were speaking during a meeting in Kigali at the weekend that brought together activists for the rights of people with disability from Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania Uganda, and South Sudan.
The delegates also expressed the need for an effective network of people living with disabilities through which they can discuss issues related to their living conditions and development in general.
Romaris Niyomugabo, the president of the National Council of Persons with Disability (NCPD), Rwanda, said there was need for people living with disabilities across the region to network and support one another on policy matters that affect them.
“We are seeing many changes across the region. Nations are coming together for common interests in economy, technology, security and infrastructure development,” he said. “The persons with disability need to be mainstreamed into all development initiatives. We should not be left behind,” Niyomugabo.
Alex Habyarimana, who represented the National Council of Persons with Disability of Burundi, said the country had been promoting the rights of the disabled people but there are still challenges.
He said many people with disability in Burundi are still beggars on the streets because the majority of them come from vulnerable families. “Meeting as nations helps us to exchange ideas on how to work together to protect persons with disability. With this kind of cooperation and experience sharing, we will be able to address the challenges we face together,” Habyarimana added.
Beatrice Guzu, from Uganda, outlined some of the existing challenges such as lack of knowledge on the existing laws and rights for people with disability, limited funding and lack of personnel to implement specific programmes in different sectors, including education and health, which need specialised teachers.
“Across the region, most disabled people are still classified under the categories of poor people, we are not fully catered for in anti-poverty programmes, while education for people living with disability remains a major challenge,” she said.