Present in Cuba since 1998, Handicap International works to improve the living conditions of people with disabilities and promote their inclusion in communities.
“There are more than 360,000 people with disabilities in Cuba, one third of whom have a form of intellectual disability,” says Philippe Martinez, Handicap International’s director in Cuba. “This high prevalence is due in part to the lack of information provided to pregnant women about how to reduce the risks of their babies developing disabilities and the lack of guidance given to families who have children with disabilities.”
Handicap International’s community-based rehabilitation project in Piñar del Rio province is designed to prevent disabilities in babies, improve the care and treatment for children with disabilities, and increase the awareness of disability in local communities. The organization trains pediatricians and obstetricians, organizes awareness-raising campaigns on intellectual impairments, and produces learning tools to promote the educational and psychological development of children and young people.
Handicap International also helps parents set up self-help groups: “We want to improve the lives of people with disabilities and acceptance by their families and communities,” says Marisol Roca, a project representative in Mantua. “We organize fun social activities and sports they can do together.”
“I really love this project,” says Julio Sànchez Breto, who has a physical disability. “It helps people with disabilities feel more included in society and fights discrimination that says ‘because you’re disabled, you can’t live here with us’.”
“I wasn’t at ease with my disability,” says Tomàs Rodrìguez Maqueira, who takes part in the self-help groups. “The project made me more visible. I’ve started a new life, and I can help people who are in the same situation as I am.”
Benefiting more than 1,400 people with disabilities, the project is run in partnership with 800 health professionals and community officers.
Handicap International’s team in Cuba also promotes the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce in Granma province and in disaster preparedness trainings in the earthquake-prone regions of Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo, and Barracoa.
 Community-based rehabilitation aims at improving the quality of life of people with disabilities and their families by meeting their basic needs and ensuring their participation and inclusion in society.