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Original Research

Childhood disability in Turkana, Kenya: Understanding how carers cope in a complex humanitarian setting

Maria Zuurmond, Velma Nyapera, Victoria Mwenda, James Kisia, Hilary Rono, Jennifer Palmer

African Journal of Disability; Vol 5, No 1 (2016), 8 pages. doi: 10.4102/ajod.v5i1.277

Submitted: 21 April 2016
Published:  29 September 2016


Background: Although the consequences of disability are magnified in humanitarian contexts, research into the difficulties of caring for children with a disability in such settings has received limited attention.
Methods: Based on in-depth interviews with 31 families, key informants and focus group discussions in Turkana, Kenya, this article explores the lives of families caring for children with a range of impairments (hearing, vision, physical and intellectual) in a complex humanitarian context characterised by drought, flooding, armed conflict, poverty and historical marginalisation.
Results: The challenging environmental and social conditions of Turkana magnified not only the impact of impairment on children, but also the burden of caregiving. The remoteness of Turkana, along with the paucity and fragmentation of health, rehabilitation and social services, posed major challenges and created opportunity costs for families. Disability-related stigma isolated mothers of children with disabilities, especially, increasing their burden of care and further limiting their access to services and humanitarian programmes. In a context where social systems are already stressed, the combination of these factors compounded the vulnerabilities faced by children with disabilities and their families.
Conclusion: The needs of children with disabilities and their carers in Turkana are not being met by either community social support systems or humanitarian aid programmes. There is an urgent need to mainstream disability into Turkana services and programmes.

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Author affiliations

Maria Zuurmond, International Centre for Evidence in Disability, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), London, United Kingdom
Velma Nyapera, Kenya Red Cross Society, Nairobi, Kenya
Victoria Mwenda, Kenya Red Cross Society, Nairobi, Kenya
James Kisia, Kenya Red Cross Society, Nairobi, Kenya
Hilary Rono, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Opthalmologist, Kitale, Kenya
Jennifer Palmer, Department of Infectious Diseases Epidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Centre of African Studies, School of Political & Social Sciences, University of Edinburgh, London, United Kingdom


childhood disability; caregiver; humanitarian


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ISSN: 2223-9170 (print) | ISSN: 2226-7220 (online)

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