EDITORIAL: Pay attention to children with special needs

Monday September 14 2020

Children with special health care still need routine care during the pandemic. PHOTO | FILE


The prolonged closure of schools continues to make life difficult for many parents. Hundreds of parents with children with special needs are struggling to cope due to the prolonged closure of schools due to the ongoing pandemic.

While schools had been scheduled to open in September, a recent spike in Covid-19 numbers forced the government to extend the closure to an unknown date.

Yet during the pandemic, children with special health care needs still need routine care.

For families with children who have special needs, such as children with medical conditions or developmental disabilities, these disruptions are amplified. Public uncertainty makes schedules unpredictable and maintaining previous routines a challenge.

This week, Rwanda Today learnt of a mother with an autistic child who has been struggling to maintain his routine.

Scovia Muteteri’s 14-year-old son is autistic. It has been a challenging six months and continues to be for mother and son since schools were shut down to stem the spread of Covid-19. Her story is not unique.


Like most parents, keeping children busy at home is a daunting task. The situation is even worse for single parents, in particular mothers who have children with special needs.

While the government is promoting remote learning and encouraging parents to help their children to adopt; it is important to take in account the needs of parents with children that have special needs as  they require additional support.

There are ongoing efforts to facilitate children with disability in particular those who are visually impaired.

Unfortunately, so far no specific measures have been put in place to assist children who have complicated health conditions that require specialists to assist them to adopt as their routine has been drastically interrupted by restrictions on movement due to the ongoing pandemic.

It is important that the government and civil society organizations working in the area of disability intensify efforts to mobilize the required resources to support families with children that require special attention.

There is need to facilitate specialists to visit families with children who need urgent attention to complement efforts by parents and guardians.

While the government recently rolled out home based care for Covid-19 patients with the help of community help workers, it is possible to make the same arrangements for families with children that require special attention.

Nobody knows when the pandemic will end. And increasingly, it looks like we will live with Covid-19. We must adjust and be prepared to live with it.

Therefore, the government must to do more to ensure that the recovery plan is inclusive and addresses the needs of the most vulnerable.

The existing income inequalities mean that some will easily adopt and move on. There is growing evidence that Covid-19 is widening the gap between the rich and the poor.

The longer the pandemic takes, the more we face the risk of more Rwandans losing the source of their livelihoods and being forced back on the edge.