Is this you? Don't worry, you're definitely not alone.
It’s probably fair to say, that images of ‘Africa’ in the minds of many people in the global north (UK, Europe, North America etc.) do not usually include disabled children. In the domestic UK charity sector, disability organisations are many; they are well established and quite well known. Meanwhile charities and NGOs working in African countries are imagined by much of the UK public to be ‘building schools’ or ‘feeding the hungry’. Even the UK Charity Commission classifies all international development activity carried out by UK charities as ‘Overseas Aid and Famine Relief’ – this dated language doesn't really illustrate the scope and challenges of international development.
It is understandable that people rarely think of disabled children when thinking about Africa. Indeed, such is the marginalisation of disabled children in many African countries that they are largely invisible. Some people that are now working or volunteering in the areas of disability and development have stories to tell of living in Ghana or Sierra Leone or Zambia for a number of years and suddenly realising that they had rarely, if ever, seen a disabled child. Often when we imagine ‘Africa’ or even when we experience it through our own eyes, disabled people and disabled children are airbrushed out.
Disability and international development are mostly thought about in separate spheres. But given that 80% of the approximately one billion disabled people in the world live in developing countries, they really shouldn’t be. These people are among the most marginalised on our planet. Disability in developing countries is huge global issue that very few people have ever thought about.