Barriers and facilitators to healthcare access for children with disabilities in low and middle income sub-Saharan African countries: a scoping review.

Peer-reviewed article
(2020 Jan) BMC Health Serv Res, 20 15


Adugna MB, Nabbouh F, Shehata S, Ghahari S



Children with disabilities (CwDs) make up around 150 million of the billion people with disabilities in the world. The Sub-Saharan African countries have a large number of CwDs who have limited access to healthcare and rehabilitation care. This, combined with chronic poverty, low education, and inadequately trained healthcare professionals, substantially lowers these children's quality of life. The main objective of this scoping review was to discover the barriers and facilitators to healthcare access for CwDs in selected low to middle income Sub-Saharan African countries. As African countries significantly vary in socioeconomic status, we only focused on countries in Sub-Saharan Africa who allocated less than $50/person to healthcare.


A broad and iterative search strategy using multiple sources and databases including CINAHL, Medline, Global Health, and Embase were utilized. Using a comprehensive search strategy, 704 articles were generated. After removal of the duplicates, 466 of them were screened based on the study inclusion and exclusion criteria. After iterative reading and screening of these articles, a final 15 articles were included in this review.


This scoping review shows that CwDs in the selected Sub-Saharan African countries face major barriers including stigma and negative attitudes, poverty and insufficient resources, inadequate policy implementations, physical inaccessibility, lack of transportation, lack of privacy, and inadequately trained healthcare professionals to deal with disability. Emotional and social support, including peer support for CwDs and caregivers, were identified as facilitators for better access to health services.


There is limited access to healthcare services in the low and middle income Sub-Saharan African countries due to poverty, low education, inadequate healthcare systems, and shortage of healthcare professionals. It is evident that there are socioeconomic, cultural, and physical related impediments that affect CwDs' and their caregivers' access to the required healthcare services. Policy development, improved physical accessibility, public disability awareness, and parental support are some of the key facilitators to access healthcare services. The study highlights the importance of revisions to childhood disability and healthcare provisions policy and practice as well as sustainable rehabilitation programs. Further research is required to explore ways to improve experience of accessing health services.