Family based childcare has helped in the campaign against stigma and confinement of children living with disability.
Akimana Alphonsine of Muganza cell, Kigabiro village, Runda sector Kamonyi district is one of the parents who adopted a girl with cerebral palsy. She said, ” Adoption is a big commitment especially adopting a kid with disability, you need a big heart to love and accept learning new skills to take care and communicate with them in their own way, they’re fragile physically and emotionally if you are not careful or committed enough, you fail and the government lose trust in you then take the child away, it’s for that good deed that Kamonyi youth volunteers gave me a cow soon we shall start to have milk in hope to support the government program to fight against malnutrition.”
Espérance Uwicyeza, the head of Child Development and Protection at the National Child Development Agency (NCD), said that in general, 91 per cent of children that used to live in orphanages have been reintegrated into families adding that there is a need to shift focus from centres accommodating children living with disabilities.
In 2012, there were 3,323 children in 33 orphanages in the country. And by 2021, only 447 children were remaining in four orphanages. Thanks to the success, she said, a delegation from Kenya recently came to Rwanda to learn how to implement their new strategy to phase out orphanages.
According to MUREKATETE Marie Goretti, the Territorial Administration and Decentralised Governance Officer of Kamonyi district, “Those families are financially supported in form of small projects for those who have committed to adopt and raise children with disabilities. The most efficient way to bridge the gap of poverty and illiteracy about stigma against people with disability is everyone’s campaign from the local leadership to the national level.”
She adds, ‘’our responsibility as leaders is to make sure they are included in all social protection programs, like education health and access to all citizen services and rights. Our partners, international and local organizations, help train them to equip them with differentskills which include special care for these children “.
“Within a few days of living with members of a family, life starts to improve for disabled children as they adapt. The status of physically impaired children, mentally impaired children, those with speech impairment among other categories improve, thanks to family-based care and social inclusion according to our study,” She said.
Sr Mukarubayiza Donatille, the head of CEFAPEK, Gacurabwenge-Kamonyi district: explained that when children are raised in centers, they grow up as orphans and vulnerable, adding that they have no identity or sense of belonging while at the centers which tends to hamper their efforts to realize the right to the best interests of the child.
However, she said that for families, especially vulnerable ones, to receive and integrate such children, it requires education, economic empowerment as well as strengthening the fight against stigma.
“Children are taken to rehabilitation centers during the day to be looked after, or to get any help such as education and health services, but go back to their families at the end of the day”.
S of all ages who have physical, sensory, or cognitive problems).
“Volunteers don’t receive any money, including those who work at health centers, including Nyamiyaga”, she said.
“Those people who help here, you see what they do, there is no budget for their work, they should have something to help them and facilitate their work, but they are formed in cooperatives, the region has something to help their cooperatives of guardian angels (malayika murinzi) but if they get other help for the household, it would be good and it would help them.”
“If there is ample financial support, there will no longer be cases of those who beg on streets or cases of those who get locked in their houses. Campaigns should be intensified to fight stigma against children once reintegrated into families.”
Sr. Mukarubayiza also notes that among these volunteers there are parents who have been taking care of children who are not their own and raising them. “Another thing I would like to say about these volunteers is that when they said that orphanage is not a solution as every child deserves a family not being confined because there is no place to go for being adopted, and now they have become their parents taking care of them”, she explained.
According to The National Council of People with Disabilities (NCPD), over 3,000 children with disabilities currently under the care of different children centres, need to be reintegrated into families
There are many centres across the country in which some of these children live full time, while others spend a portion of their time at rehabilitation centres. The collaborative efforts of state and non-state actors like UNICEF, NCD and the local government to implement and follow up of how those under their care are treated,help in policy planning and project management.
Thanks to the community support more children with disabilities have got the opportunity to live a family life they couldn’t experience in orphanages such as chance of having loving siblings and neighbors.
Rwanda has ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) in 2008. Since the ratification, the Government has increased its efforts to ensure that the rights of all Persons with Disabilities are promoted and protected with a particular emphasis on children.
In line with Rwanda’s Integrated Child Rights Policy (2011), children with disabilities have the right to grow in a safe and protective environment.
Although there is a strong childcare reform programme focused on getting children into family care from institutional care by building a care, protection, and a support system with a dedicated social workforce, an assessment conducted in 2016 showed that over 4,000 children with disabilities were under institutional care.
At that time, a qualitative study also showed that children with disabilities are largely excluded from family life and from different services including education and special health care.
Twahirwa Umumarashavu Janat.