•At least 1.16 million people in Kenya have mobility-related disabilities and more than half of them live in rural areas, the government says.
•Although disabled Kenyans are granted a tax exemption on their monthly or annual income, they have to buy the assistive products they need.
Thousands of disabled Kenyans live without life-changing assistive products simply because they cannot afford them, a new report shows.
The products include wheelchairs, hearing and visual aids, prosthetics or spectacles, or digital software and apps.
At least 1.16 million people in Kenya have mobility-related disabilities and more than half of them live in rural areas, the government says.
There are 800,000 Kenyans with visual impairment, while one out of every 10 Kenyans has hearing impairment.
The World Health Organization says many of these are simply denied the life-changing products they need because of the prohibitive cost.
The WHO’s Global Report on Assistive Technology, released on Monday, presents evidence for the first time on the global need for and access to assistive products.
Although the exact number of Kenyans who live without these products is not given, globally the number is about 2.5 billion and is likely to rise to 3.5 billion by 2050.
Affordability is a major barrier to access, the report says. Around two-thirds of people with assistive products reported out-of-pocket payments for them. Others reported relying on family and friends to financially support their needs.
“Denying people access to these life-changing tools is not only an infringement of human rights, it’s economically shortsighted. We call on all countries to fund and prioritise access to assistive technology and give everyone a chance to live up to their potential,” WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says.
Although disabled Kenyans are granted a tax exemption on their monthly or annual income, they have to buy the assistive products they need.
Most affected are children, the report says.
“Denying children the right to the products they need to thrive doesn’t only harm individual children, it deprives families and their communities of everything they could contribute if their needs were met,” Unicef executive director Catherine Russell says.
“Without access to assistive technology, children with disabilities will continue to miss out on their education, continue to be at a greater risk of child labour and continue to be subjected to stigma and discrimination, undermining their confidence and wellbeing.”
The report notes that the number of people in need of one or more assistive products is likely to rise to 3.5 billion by 2050, due to populations ageing and the prevalence of non-communicable diseases rising across the world.
The report also highlights the vast gap in access between low- and high-income countries.
An analysis of 35 countries reveals that access varies from three per cent in poorer nations to 90 per cent in wealthy countries.
A survey of 70 countries, including Kenya, found large gaps in service provision and trained workforce for assistive technology, especially in the domains of cognition, communication and self-care.
Previous surveys published by WHO note a lack of awareness, unaffordable prices, lack of services, inadequate product quality, range and quantity, and procurement and supply chain challenges as key barriers.
Assistive products are generally considered a means to participate in community life and in wider society on an equal footing with others.
Without them, people suffer exclusion, are at risk of isolation, live in poverty, may face hunger, and be forced to depend more on family, community and government support.
Edited by A.N