Thousands of disabled Rwandan children have been abandoned by their parents, according to the National Council of People with Disabilities.
At least 15,000 children mentally disabilities alone, according the 2010 national census, had been abandoned and the number could be higher than that now, says Father Eugene Murenzi, the president of Tubakunde, an umbrella of associations advocating for mentally disabled children.
In Muhanga district alone, at a child rehabilitation center, 33 children out of 100, aged between 3 and 21 years have never seen their biological parents since birth.
On December 29, 2015, at St. André Catholic Church in Muhanga district, hundreds of people shed tears as the children were being Baptised in the absence of their biological parents.
The Handicapé Reintegrédansses Droits (HRD), is a charity organization that picks them from forests, abandoned building, and other places, says they are given family names by strangers.
“It is unfair that our parents abandoned us. At least some people accepted that we can call them our parents today,” Frank Habimana 21, who suffered from polio, said during the baptism ceremony.
Frank was found by a Samaritan called Habimana after he was rejected by his parents 20 years ago named him Habimana.
He took the child to the International Committee of the Red Cross and later transferred to Handicapé Reintegrédansses Droits.
Florentine Uwamariya, in charge of disabled children at the National Council of People with Disabilities told KT Press, that Rwanda has 54 centers of children with disability where charity organizations do their best to treat cases that are treatable or to give just a home to others whose cases are overwhelming.
Some of the children were surrendered to the centers by parents for medication and might return to their families afterwards.
However, others were found on the streets by well-wishers after their families abandoned them.
Some children were abandoned far from their homes, while others were kept in homes where their parents raise them as “things”.
“We have cases of children with wild characters because they were raised together with animals,” Uwamaliya has told KT Press, “Others were quarantined in holes because families were seeing them as a burden which they wished to get rid of.”
“Disabled children are found isolated in a cage at home because families do not want anyone to know they had such ‘a curse’ as they call it,” says Marc Hategekima, the director of GS Kabuga Catholic in Gasabo district, himself has a handicap.
The genuine number of abandoned disabled children is not known yet, according to National Council of People with Disabilities.
However, in 2016, the country is expected to conduct a census to know their exact figure and categorise them while identifying how they ended into centers.