More than 20 years after the genocide of the Tutsis (1994), which haunts Rwanda to this day, Handicap International continues to help victims overcome their trauma and better integrate in Rwandan society. The organisation aims to protect these vulnerable people, particularly people with disabilities, and to include them in their communities. The organisation conducts violence prevention, improves access to school for children with disabilities, works to protect children, particularly children with disabilities, from sexual violence, promotes access to care for people with epilepsy, and trains occupational therapists. Handicap International also ensures people with disabilities living in refugee camps in Rwanda have access to rehabilitation services.
© W. Huyghe / Handicap International
Rwanda was seriously affected by the genocide of the Tutsis which left 800,000 people dead in 1994. In 1996, two years after starting up its work to assist the victims, Handicap International launched its first mental health project.
More than twenty years later, the country still suffers from the highest level of post-traumatic stress disorder in the region. Despite the national mental health policy put in place as early as 1995, the genocide is still the main reason for this. Handicap International undertakes mental health actions with Rwandans who are suffering from psychological distress, and helps them to get back their footing. The organisation specifically supports people with disabilities who are experiencing psychological disorders after suffering violence, e.g. by setting up discussion groups.
Handicap International takes action to help vulnerable Rwandan children, especially children with disabilities. The organisation carries out awareness-raising and advocates for the strengthening of child protection processes in place in Rwanda, with the aim of protecting children from sexual violence. It also works with the Ministry of Education to guarantee access to education for all children, e.g. by training teachers and making buildings accessible for children with disabilities.
Handicap International promotes the inclusion of Rwandan people with disabilities in society, in particular at community level. The organisation offers support to disabled people’s organisations, providing them with technical and financial assistance. This enables these organisations to pursue actions to promote the rights and civic participation of people with disabilities.
In order to improve the ways in which disability is dealt with in Rwanda, Handicap International is conducting occupational therapy training and simultaneously is calling on the government to recognise the profession at national level. The organisation is also working to improve epilepsy prevention and care, especially for mothers and children.
Rwanda is slowly recovering from the genocide of the Tutsis, which left 800,000 people dead in 1994.
The genocide of the Tutsis took place in Rwanda between April and July 1994. More than 800,000 people lost their lives in 100 days. The surviving population was plunged into a situation of extreme distress, and the genocide marked the beginning of an unprecedented ethnic conflict in the very heart of Africa.
Two decades later, the country is making significant progress: according to the World Bank, per capita GDP has risen five-fold, poverty levels have fallen by approximately 25% and inequalities have been reduced. The Millennium Development Goals concerning the reduction of infant mortality rates have been met. Poverty and income inequalities have also been reduced.
One necessity remains: the protection and social inclusion of people with disabilities and vulnerable people. Indeed, despite the economic growth and the recent development of basic services, such as health care, housing and education, the Rwandan population includes a large number of people who are vulnerable both economically, and from a psychological and social point of view. Nearly 29% of Rwandans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and 53% from depression linked to the genocide.
People with disabilities are also denied a role in society, and the authorities do not take care of them. The technical and financial resources earmarked for dealing with disability are still very limited, and civil society, energised by the numerous local NGOs which champion the rights people with disabilities, needs better support.