Purpose: Conflict and disability are closely associated; it is therefore significant to examine strategies at the grassroots-level for restoring the human rights of people with disabilities living in post-conflict societies. The aim of this study is to reveal the impact of and issues with community-based rehabilitation (CBR) in the Northern Province of Sri Lanka that was ravaged by civil war from 1983 to 2009.
Methods: The research was implemented in October 2016, in collaboration with a local NGO in the Mullaitivu district. A mixed-methods approach was followed, which included quantitative analysis of the NGO’s registration database of people with disabilities in the area (n=964), group interviews with 9 community rehabilitation committees (CRCs) of people with disabilities and their family members (n=118), and semi-structured interviews with clients of the CBR programme (n=5). Thematic analysis was applied to the narrative data.
Results: The quantitative analysis on clients of the NGO revealed that 60.9% of disabilities were related to war. Livelihood assistance was the most common type of self-reported need (44.6%). The qualitative analysis revealed that in communities with inadequate local resources, CRCs that had access to livelihood assistance made a positive impact on the socioeconomic conditions of people with disabilities and their family members. Potential issues were observed, such as the expectation of and dependence on the financial aid without self-help. Some people with disabilities would not attend CRCs if there were no financial benefits. As most of the participants had war-related disabilities, it is also possible that participation of people with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities unrelated to war may not have been promoted in some CRCs.
Conclusions: The CBR programme has had positive impacts on the living conditions of participants, albeit with some potential issues such as financial expectations and aid dependency. The authors argue that empowerment of people with disabilities and addressing socioeconomic inequality should be considered simultaneously.