Background: Although the consequences of disability are magnified in humanitarian contexts, research into the difficulties of caring for children with a disability in such settings has received limited attention.
Methods: Based on in-depth interviews with 31 families, key informants and focus group discussions in Turkana, Kenya, this article explores the lives of families caring for children with a range of impairments (hearing, vision, physical and intellectual) in a complex humanitarian context characterised by drought, flooding, armed conflict, poverty and historical marginalisation.
Results: The challenging environmental and social conditions of Turkana magnified not only the impact of impairment on children, but also the burden of caregiving. The remoteness of Turkana, along with the paucity and fragmentation of health, rehabilitation and social services, posed major challenges and created opportunity costs for families. Disability-related stigma isolated mothers of children with disabilities, especially, increasing their burden of care and further limiting their access to services and humanitarian programmes. In a context where social systems are already stressed, the combination of these factors compounded the vulnerabilities faced by children with disabilities and their families.
Conclusion: The needs of children with disabilities and their carers in Turkana are not being met by either community social support systems or humanitarian aid programmes. There is an urgent need to mainstream disability into Turkana services and programmes.