Anglican Alliance launch new resource in support of persons with disabilities in refugee settings

3 December 2014

People with disabilities are among the poorest and most socially excluded people in the world. When they are displaced and living in camps, they face even more challenges participating fully in daily life. Since, disability is not only due to physical and mental impairments, but people’s attitudes and the local environment, there is huge scope for faith communities to engage with and support people with disabilities and for faith leaders to speak out to ensure that people with disabilities can live life to the full.

You can access the full resource, ‘A better life together: faith communities and people with disabilities’, here.

The new resource was developed by the Anglican Alliance with Anglican partners in Burundi and Zambia. This very practical resource pack has been designed to help faith communities to understand people who live with disability and the challenges they face, and to work with them to change attitudes and improve their lives.

‘A better life together’  includes background information on the various disabilities people have and how those disabilities affect people’s daily lives. And the pack goes much further and offers useful tools to:

  •        identify and profile people with disabilities in the local community
  •        learn about their situation, their capacities as well as their challenges
  •        teach what faiths believe about human nature
  •        teach about the rights of people with disabilities
  •        communicate these messages to the local community
  •        help find practical ways to make a difference, including through advocacy and protection.

The resource was developed through workshops and community engagement with faith communities and people with disabilities in different refugee and IDP camps in Burundi and Zambia.

Meetings with camp authorities and agencies working with refugees gave insights from their local, national and global perspective. Final revisions used feedback from the refugee camps, country stakeholder workshops and virtual consultations with experts in disability, refugees, faith leadership and development.

The draft tools and resource were translated into French for use with refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda, and the final resource is being translated into French and Swahili to increase access.

All the Annexes in included in the resouce, but for use in the field use key annexes on fewer pages can be downloaded using these links:

Annex 12: Identification tool 

Annex 13: Profiling tool

Annex 14: Care profile

Sharing stories

In each place people with disabilities shared their stories, their capacities, their hopes and their challenges: Anita, from DRC, has been in Meheba refugee settlement in Zambia for three years, but has been unable to continue her education since arrival. She is not able to get to school as it is too far away along rutted roads and she has severe mobility problems due to childhood polio. In her previous camp, the school was closer and she could use her wheelchair, now the wheelchair is broken as it is not sturdy enough for the conditions. She is a bright young lady who is active in the church community, but she could do so much more in the future if only she could continue her education.

One thing that was apparent was that people with disabilities were often isolated or invisible, such as Ali, a three year old, who was brain damaged as a result of severe fever. It is getting difficult for Zena, his mother to carry him around now, she is alone and is rejected by neighbours, so has to leave him shut indoors to go and collect water or rations. She feels isolated and he is invisible. Life could be very different for Zena and Ali if the neighbours changed their attitudes and included her in daily life, for example if she had help minding Ali so she could fetch water or rations, or if she could meet with other parents of children with severe disabilities so that they could encourage and support each other.

It doesn’t take much to make a difference

This was seen by the positive engagement of the faith communities in the workshops, such as Pacifique, who was going to preach that Sunday that everyone is valued and loved by God and should be treated with respect and dignity.

Workshop participants took this further: in each place they set up a local disability committee and developed an action plan to take forward disability issues. They planned to continue to identify and profile people with disabilities. Once all people with disabilities have been registered, they will hold meetings with them to identify and prioritise their needs and skills.

  • They will create linkages with the local authorities and agencies.
  • They will develop a constitution and register as an association to allow them to engage with regional and national agencies to get support for people with disabilities in the refugee camp.
  • They will hold a stakeholder meeting to bring together refugees with disabilities, faith and community leaders, camp authorities, agencies working with refugees and disability organisations.

The meeting will be an opportunity to share the situation of people with disabilities in the camp and what the faith communities are doing. It will be a forum to discuss how camp authorities, agencies working with refugees and disabilities organisation can work with the disability committee to improve daily life for people with disabilities.

Enabling people with disabilities 

‘A better life together’ is not primarily about faith communities doing things for people with disabilities, but about enabling people with disabilities to be involved.

In Meheba refugee settlement, the elected committee included John, a pastor in a wheelchair, as its chairman and Chibwabwa as its treasurer.Despite being left with paralysis after a complex illness in 2008, Chibwabwa manages her home with the help of her children since her husband left.  As well as a small business selling charcoal and oil, Chibwabwa is a skilled tailor, though she lacks the capital to buy a sewing machine. A tricycle to move about more easily and a sewing machine would allow her to be financially independent and use her skills. In addition, others would be able to enjoy the beautifully crafted clothes she can make. The disability committee has already found an organisation in Zambia that provides rugged tricycles and will work with Personal Energy Transport Zambia to meet the need of those with mobility problems in the camp.

Chibwabwa is a great role model for other people with disabilities. She was impressive when she challenged someone who said that disabled people could not be teachers: “I am lame, but I know and speak Swahili, I am a tailor. Does my disability mean that I cannot teach others?”

John explained that being a teacher was a question of training and intelligence, not disability. He added that it is not against the law in Zambia for a person with disability to teach.

With people like John and Chibwabwa on the disability committee in Meheba refugee settlement, we look forward to hearing how things are changing for people with disabilities in the refugee and IDP camps in Burundi and Zambia.

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The Anglican Alliance is grateful for support from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund, a programme managed by ELRHA, and for the work of the following partners: the Bethesda project, Anglican Church of Burundi and Zambian Anglican Council. We would also like to thank the refugees with disabilities that took part in the research, and the faith communities and camp authorities in the refugee and IDP camps in Burundi and Zambia for their contribution to this resource.

Background to the resource

The resource has been developed by the Anglican Alliance in partnership with the Bethesda Project in Muyinga and Bujumbura Anglican Dioceses, Burundi and the Zambia Anglican Council, as part of a project funded by the Humanitarian Innovation Fund (more detail below).

Over six months the partners carried out participatory research with faith leaders, community carers and people with disabilities in refugee and Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) camps in Burundi and Zambia. Through workshops and community work, they learnt about the situation of people with disabilities in these settings. In this way the resource was developed and tested in different contexts in each country.

As the resource progressed it was shared and revised by specialists in refugees and protection, disabilities and development and faith and empowerment. We are grateful for the engagement of all these people, for their support, contribution, critical review and encouragement.

Anglican Alliance

Anglican Alliance brings together the Anglican family of churches and agencies to work for a world free of poverty and injustice, to raise the voices of the vulnerable, to reconcile those in conflict and to safeguard the earth.

In every region, the Anglican Alliance works together with churches and agencies in development, relief and advocacy:

  •       Global – equipping local churches to respond in all parts of the world
  •       Connecting – building a web of communication with Anglican churches, agencies, networks, others
  •       Enabling – valuing mutuality and inter-dependence
  •       Empowering – driven from the grassroots up
  •       Learning – encouraging innovation and skills sharing
  •       Reflective – grounding its work in theological and biblical reflection
  •       Faithful – seeking to respond to God’s holistic mission.

Humanitarian Innovation Fund

The Humanitarian Innovation Fund (HIF) is a unique non-profit grant making facility supporting organisations and individuals to identify, nurture and share innovative and scalable solutions to the challenges facing effective humanitarian assistance. Visit for more information.

The Humanitarian Innovation Fund is managed by ELRHA (Enhancing Learning and Research for Humanitarian Assistance), in partnership with ALNAP (Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action). ELRHA is hosted by Save the Children UK. Visit for more information.

The Humanitarian Innovation Fund is co-funded by UK and Canadian aid from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). The views expressed in this document are not necessarily those of DFID, or CIDA.


Most photos were taken by the project team and are used with permission of the individuals photographed; the photos of Personal Energy Transportation (PET) were taken by PET Zambia project staff and are used with permission; the front cover photo is by Gareth Barton,; some illustrations are reproduced with permission of the publisher, from Community-based rehabilitation: CBR guidelines supplementary booklet, World Health Organisation (WHO), 2010; others from Where there is no artist, Petra Röhr-Rouendaal; infographics are reproduced with permission of Light for the World.


You are welcome to freely reproduce the resource but please acknowledge the source and inform us at the Anglican Alliance, St Andrew’s House, 16 Tavistock Crescent, London W11 1AP, or

Electronic copies of the resource and tools and translations can be downloaded from

These will be updated from time to time as we receive feedback from users, so do give feedback to