Projects: Collaborate.Health

Disability Care during COVID-19 in Kenya

Using safety planning to address the consequences of stigma on children with disabilities and their caregivers in the time of Covid-19

Agency Partner
Kupenda for the Children
Program Design for Global Health
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Stigma towards children with disabilities and their caregivers has notable repercussions for their mental health that is worsened further by the impact of COVID-19. In collaboration with Kupenda for the Children, the program design student consultant team developed a proposal to use safety planning to improve mental health among these individuals in Kilifi, Kenya.


In Kenya, disability is often believed to be caused by curses or demons, and individuals who have special needs are considered non-human beings. This belief system leads to the perpetual abuse, both physical and sexual, of individuals with disabilities. Parents with these beliefs are also less likely to follow professional prescriptions for intervention. Given these societal factors, caregivers of children with disabilities (typically the mother or grandmother) often experience guilt, low self-esteem, stress, and feelings of helplessness while struggling to meet the needs of the child. COVID-19 only intensifies this distress since children with disabilities are at a higher risk of contracting the disease, and isolation can have a large negative impact on the mental health of disabled people and their caregivers.


Kupenda for the Children is a nonprofit organization that addresses the stigma and discrimination of people with disabilities in Kenya. To aid children with disabilities and their caregivers with the consequences of stigma, Kupenda seeks to implement safety planning, which is a list of tools and strategies that caregivers and caseworkers can use to manage worsening symptoms and promote wanted behaviors by positioning the family’s desires and concerns at the center of decision making.


The goal of the program is to eliminate child abuse and disability stigma in Kilifi County, Kenya. To achieve this, the student consultant team designed a program that provides workshops on safety planning, abuse, and how to protect children with disabilities. The program proposal included discussion of how activities can be modified and sustained after COVID-19.


Implementation of this program will allow community leaders in Kilifi to train local families on abuse and safety planning. As a result of this training, these families can use safety plans to support the mental health of caregivers and children with disabilities. Long-term, this program can help communities view children with disabilities as important members of society and work to support them and their families collectively.

Project Timeline

This project took four months to complete from kick-off meeting to presentation of final deliverables. Click the button below for a detailed timeline.

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Kupenda Documentary Trailer

On the coast of Kenya, where people impacted by disability are often shunned and viewed as cursed, these three determined teenagers set out to challenge their community’s long-held stigma and climb Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro. This film was shown at the Beloit and the ReelAbilities Film Festival.