Schoolgirl in Uganda playing hula hoop in purple school uniform

Infographic: Children With Disabilities Lack Access to Nutrition, Health and WASH Services

Holt recently conducted a survey of more than 7,000 households in rural Uganda. Its findings will help us better address the needs of families — particularly those with disabilities.

Uganda is a nation in East Africa where nearly 20% of the population lives in chronic poverty. Holt has been working in Uganda since 2001 to help vulnerable families and children, particularly those affected by HIV/AIDS.

In 2023 alone, Holt Uganda provided nutrition and health screenings, vitamin supplements and treatments to more than 165,000 children, thanks to local partnerships and Holt donor support. Holt also provided prenatal services to more than 4,000 pregnant women and served a nutritious meal each day to 915 children at early childhood care and development centers in rural areas.

But there’s still more work to be done.

In 2021, Holt Uganda conducted a large-scale survey of more than 7,000 households in three districts in central Uganda. Some of these households participate in Holt’s family strengthening or sponsorship programs and some do not. In addition, about 4.4% of these households have at least one child with a disability.

The survey questionnaire, designed by Holt as part of its routine programming and data collection in Uganda, asked families about their access to health, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services, as well as their dietary and nutritional needs. It was conducted to inform and improve Holt’s work in Uganda, with a particular focus on children with disabilities. “These families are typically excluded from most research and population counts — but Holt is committed to providing disability-inclusive services in all the countries where we work,” says Emily DeLacey, PhD, RDN, LDN, director of Holt’s Nutrition & Health Services and the senior researcher on the study.

A little boy receiving deworming medication in Uganda
A little boy in rural Uganda receives deworming medication. According to Holt survey respondents, deworming and vaccination services were the most important — yet difficult — to access.

As a result of the research, Holt was able to determine the following:

  • Only 57.9% of Ugandan households surveyed have access to the nutrition and health services they need. Deworming and vaccination services were reported as the most important — yet difficult — to access. One reason for this challenge is that nearly 30% of the population in Uganda must travel more than 5 kilometers (about 3 miles) to reach a health facility. A lack of transportation in rural and remote areas creates an additional burden for these families.
  • Access to health and nutrition services were reported as 30% lower for households with children with disabilities. These households often face barriers to receiving adequate care due to inaccessible health facilities or transportation, medical professionals not trained or healthcare programs not structured to provide services for these children, or even stigma against disabilities, resulting in children being unwelcome or deemed a lower priority for health services.
  • When children with disabilities have access to clean water, sanitation and good hygiene, their access to nutrition and health services also improves.
  •  Improved and inclusive access to nutrition, health and WASH services for people in Uganda, including children with disabilities, needs to be prioritized as Holt creates more targeted programs in the future. “This research enables us to better advocate for improved access to nutrition and health services for vulnerable families in Uganda, especially for those with disabilities,” says Emily.

To learn more about the survey and its findings, check out Holt’s recent publication in the scientific journal “Maternal and Child Nutrition” and view the Infographic below.

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