Causes of childhood disabilities in a rural South African community : caregivers' perspective

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 4
  • SDG 3
  • Abstract:

    Childhood disabilities are conditions that affect or are likely to influence the development of children into adulthood. Childhood disabilities are common in both high-income as well as lowincome countries. UNICEF estimated that the number of children with disabilities below the age of 18 years was about 150 million. In low-income countries, the prevalence of childhood disability ranged between 0.4 and 12.7%. According to Census 2001, the prevalence of childhood disability in South Africa was between 2-3 %. It is commonly accepted in the literature that the aetiology of childhood disability is attributed to prenatal, perinatal and postnatal factors. However, disabilities within the African context have been associated with beliefs and spirituality retribution such as the “will of God or witchcraft”. The purpose of the study is to establish what the caregivers attribute as the cause of childhood disabilities in the rural community of South Africa. A qualitative, exploratory and descriptive approach was used to obtain the participants’ perspectives on the cause of childhood disability. Data were collected from caregivers of children with disabilities using individual face-to-face interviews (n=9) and three focus group discussions (n=10) at Nkhensani Hospital in Giyani, Limpopo Province, South Africa. Caregivers perceived “religious beliefs, other beliefs, biomedical factors and lifestyle and habits as possible causes of childhood disabilities. Even though belief-based-factors cannot be scientifically proven as potential causes of childhood disability, health care professionals should ensure at all times that they take into consideration the clients’ culture and beliefs during assessment and or treatment of the child.