Find out more about our work in disability.
Find out more about our work in HIV prevention and care.
According to the World Bank, one person in ten has a disability and more than three quarters of disabled people live in developing countries. Disability is both a cause and consequence of poverty and disabled people account for as many as one in five of the world’s poorest people.
Stigma and denial of basic rights limits many disabled people’s access to education and employment and causes them to be economically and socially excluded. UNICEF estimates that only 2% of disabled children in poor countries have access to education or rehabilitation services. In many countries in Africa, disabled people are often hidden away by their families or reduced to a life of begging on the street, condemned as cursed or useless by those around them.
Advantage Africa believes that disabled people should be fully included in the life of their communities. Our approach borrows from the social model of disability, which says that society should change the attitudes and structures that discriminate against disabled people, rather than the medical model, which aims to ‘cure’ disabilities. This is why, wherever possible, we promote special schools for children with learning disabilities not as separate institutions, but as units with specialist facilities and staff within mainstream primary schools. Ben Kithua, the founding Headmaster at Mitaboni Primary School where Advantage Africa supports the inclusion of disabled children, is passionate about this. He says ‘the children attending the unit mix with the primary school children and don’t feel different or isolated anymore’. His colleague, social worker Francis Mutua says ‘I’m happy that people are changing to understand that we mustn’t see these children as any less special or important’.
Development institutions such as the British Government's Department for International Development (DFID) and the United Nations agree that to improve the lives of the world’s poorest people, disabled people must be able to participate fully in their communities, obtain a fair share of the benefits and claim their rights as full and equal members of society. Advantage Africa, with its focus on reaching the most vulnerable, is working with people like Ben and Francis to help make that goal a reality.
This video features Advantage Africa's disability projects in Kenya
It’s estimated that across Africa there are 25 million people living with HIV, two million AIDS-related deaths each year and over 12 million children orphaned by AIDS. In many African countries, AIDS has brought healthcare systems to the brink of collapse and had a major impact on education, industry, agriculture, transport, and the economy in general.
In Kenya and Uganda, where Advantage Africa works, it’s estimated that 6.7% and 4.1% of adults respectively are HIV positive. In Uganda, this means that nearly half a million people are infected, but experience there provides hope for the rest of the continent that it is possible to turn the tide of the epidemic; Uganda's prevalence rate of 15% in the early 1990s was transformed by political will and well planned public education.
HIV infection brings much personal suffering but also threatens to devastate whole communities and erode the progress African countries have made in increasing life expectancy, school enrolment and economic productivity. In communities like Obambo, western Kenya, there is rarely a weekend that goes by without a funeral that leaves a family mourning the death of a loved one and having to cope with the greater poverty that such a loss usually brings. The challenge there, as in so many African communities, is to bring health care, support and solidarity to a rising number of people with HIV-related illness, reduce the number of new infections through protective measures, and care for the orphans and survivors who are left.
Advantage Africa’s work in Obambo includes awareness raising about how HIV/AIDS is transmitted and how it can be prevented based around the ‘ABC’ strategy of Abstinence, Be Faithful and Condoms. To this has recently been added the ‘D’ of Discover Your Status, through a voluntary counselling and testing scheme begun in partnership with Obambo church. We’re also supporting people living with AIDS to access nutritious food and good quality healthcare. In Kibwezi Kenya and various locations of Uganda our work extends to caring for children orphaned by AIDS and helping people living with AIDS to access antiretroviral treatment.
Advantage Africa’s focus on the most vulnerable people means we place a particular emphasis on the stigma and discrimination related to HIV/AIDS. People living with AIDS are often regarded as shameful, morally irresponsible, or cursed. This can fuel anxiety and prejudice and cause them to be excluded from their communities, denied basic services and even rejected by their own families. Mistakenly perceived as the main transmitters of sexually transmitted diseases and disadvantaged by traditional beliefs about sex and blood, women often suffer most from stigma. Advantage Africa’s partner in Uganda, the Single Parents’ Association of Uganda (SPAU) has many women members who have been ostracised in this way following the death of their husbands and denied access to property and employment as a result.
HIV/AIDS does not only result in discrimination and repression. Advantage Africa’s partnerships show that the epidemic also triggers responses of compassion, solidarity and support, bringing out the best in people, their families and communities. In Muzinda, Uganda for example, Paul Lwanga established SPAU to advance the rights of hundreds of women living with HIV and Betty Kizito cares for twenty children orphaned by AIDS.
For as long as HIV & AIDS presents so many challenges, Advantage Africa will continue to support the work of inspirational people like Paul and Betty to reduce its spread and overcome the suffering and poverty it causes.