UCL News


Community-based rehabilitation in Africa

18 October 2004

A conference in Malawi in September 2004, attended and co-organised by many UCL alumni, explored the challenges of community-based rehabilitation (CBR) in developing countries.

Community based rehabilitation (CBR) promotes the process of fully integrating disabled people into the fabric of community life. A conference on 'CBR as part of Community Development', was organised by CBR Africa Network (CAN), a non-governmental organisation committed to sharing information and promoting best practices in CBR among developing countries, and was funded by the CP Charitable Trust through a grant held by Dr Sally Hartley (PhD 1997), Senior Research Fellow at UCL's Centre for International Child Health (CICH). The conference was also supported by the Norwegian Development Agency (NAD), UNICEF, WHO and ILO. 180 delegates from 25 countries attended, including many disabled people and alumni of CICH.

Dr Hartley, the Executive Director of CAN said: "As much of Africa still has an oral rather than a written tradition, it is difficult for practitioners to impart and find information on people's experiences through print material or online. The conference provides the forum for CBR innovators to share their knowledge and experience with the aim of improving the quality of life for people with disabilities in developing countries. This outcome of the conference will then recorded in a book on CBR, which will be distributed free to CBR practitioners across Africa."

Ms Karen Edwards (MSc Community Disability Studies (CDS), 2001), CICH Student Administrator, organised a meeting at the conference in order to strengthen UCL alumni links. Ms Edwards said: "The participants concluded that the best way to establish greater contact between UCL alumni working in CBR across the world would be the creation of a newsletter which will be distributed twice a year. The first newsletter will be distributed by the end of 2004 and will feature articles written by UCL alumni, sharing information on innovative practice and training programmes, as well as details of ongoing research. The goal of the newsletter is to enable those working with people with disabilities around the world to share their expertise and experiences."

The conference concluded that it is essential for CBR programmes to address poverty as this is one of the main problems faced by disabled people in developing countries and that sharing information and taking a more pro-active stance at all levels is crucial for the development of CBR.

Many UCL alumni are involved in the activities of CAN. Those involved in the CAN steering committee and conference organisation included Shaya Asindua (Diploma in CBR 1985), Rachel Plackett (MSc CDS 2001), Servious Dube (PhD 2003), Raphael Owako (MSc CDS 1995), Alick Chavuta (MSc CDS 2002) and Alice Nganwa (MSc Mother and Child Health 1989). New members elected to the CAN committee at the conference included UCL alumni Shaya Asindua, Daniel Tsengu (MSc CDS 2002) and Peter Ngomwa (Diploma in CBR 1990).

To find out more about CAN or the CICH use the links below.

Institute of Child Health
Community based rehabilitation African network (CAN)