26 May 2014

Rwanda: Exercise to Categorise People With Disabilities Gains Momentum

The National Council for People Living with Disabilities (PLWDs) has intensified a countrywide exercise to categorise PLWDs to support them better. The exercise will see close to 520,000 PLWDs put into different categories.

Speaking to The New Times last week, Emmanuel Ndayisaba, the Executive Secretary of the council, said they have so far classified 61,000 PLWDs, which will help them get assistance tailored to suit their needs.

"This programme started last December with the training of medics, followed by the pilot phase in Bugesera District in February, before the real exercise kicked off," he said.

Ndayisaba said the eight-month exercise valued at about Rwf1 billion started following a 2009 ministerial order calling for classification of the disabled according to their needs.

The exercise involves 176 medics deployed at 43 sites countywide.

"The turn up was initially low, but it has since moved from an average of 20 to 50 daily at our different sites," Ndayisaba said.

He noted mobilisation has been taken to places like churches, schools as well as markets.

Ndayisaba mentioned that an extra 35 medics have been trained to cater for emergencies.

How the system works?

The team of medics is made up of a medical doctor, mental health specialist, physiotherapist and general nurse, who jointly decide on what category a person belongs to after examination, Ndayisaba noted.

Dr Cerille Semana, a medical doctor who is among those conducting the exercise at Remera Health Centre, Gasabo District said the disabled are classified in five categories depending on the nature of disability.

"We first ask them about how they feel, before carrying out examinations and then grade them," he said.

He added that community-based health workers in partnership with the council carry out the identification of beneficiaries.

Ndayisaba said those who are disabled but also found to be financially challenged will be eligible to benefits.

"For instance people with total visual impairment, those who lost both legs, and the physically immobilised, all fall in the first category, and are entitled to services like free health insurance," he noted.


Sylvie Nyirabugenimana, the Disability Friendly Communication Officer at NCPD said the biggest challenge faced is that of disabled people especially from well-off families who fail to turn up because they think the exercise is only reserved for those who are financially challenged.

"The other problem is that of parents leaving in denial about their children's disability, never bringing them up for such exercises for fear of stigma."

She said local leaders originally lacked sense of ownership of the programme, putting in little effort to mobilise locals but was quick to add that the trend had since changed.

"Earlier on we were receiving isolated cases of discrimination against people whose disabilities were derived from the Genocide, with an excuse that they are supposed to be catered for by organsisation's like Fund for Genocide Survivors (FARG) but this was later sorted," Nyirabugenimana said.

Pierre Claver Rwaka, a former representative of the disabled in Parliament, hailed the exercise saying: "The exercise will help eliminate challenges the disabled face in every day life."

According to a 2010 survey carried out jointly by the Ministries of Health and Local government, Gicumbi District was found to have the worst cases of disability, standing at 4.4 per cent, and physical impairment was the commonest case countrywide.

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