To main content

Perceived barriers for accessing health services among individuals with disability in four African countries


There is an increasing awareness among researchers and others that marginalized and vulnerable groups face problems in accessing health care. Access problems in particular in low-income countries may jeopardize the targets set by the United Nations through the Millennium Development Goals. Thus, identifying barriers for individuals with disability in accessing health services is a research priority. The current study aimed at identifying the magnitude of specific barriers, and to estimate the impact of disability on barriers for accessing health care in general. A population based household survey was carried out in Sudan, Namibia, Malawi, and South Africa, including a total of 9307 individuals. The sampling strategy was a two-stage cluster sampling within selected geographical areas in each country. A listing procedure to identify households with disabled members using the Washington Group six screening question was followed by administering household questionnaires in households with and without disabled members, and questionnaires for individuals with and without disability. The study shows that lack of transport, availability of services, inadequate drugs or equipment, and costs, are the four major barriers for access. The study also showed substantial variation in perceived barriers, reflecting largely socio-economic differences between the participating countries. Urbanity, socio-economic status, and severity of activity limitations are important predictors for barriers, while there is no gender difference. It is suggested that education reduces barriers to health services only to the extent that it reduces poverty. Persons with disability face additional and particular barriers to health services. Addressing these barriers requires an approach to health that stresses equity over equality.


Academic article




  • Arne Henning Eide
  • Hasheem Mannan
  • Mustafa Khogali
  • Gert van Rooy
  • Leslie Swartz
  • Alister Munthali
  • Karl-Gerhard Hem
  • Malcolm MacLachlan
  • Karin Dyrstad


  • SINTEF Digital / Health Research
  • University of Stellenbosch
  • The University of Dublin, Trinity College
  • Ahfad University for Women
  • University of Namibia
  • University of Malawi



Published in








View this publication at Cristin