Background: Data on childhood disability is essential for planning health, education and other services. However, information is lacking in many low- and middle-income countries, including Niger. This study uses the Key Informant Method, an innovative and cost-effective strategy for generation population-based estimates of childhood disability, to estimate the prevalence and causes of moderate/severe impairments and disabling health conditions in children of school-going age (7-16 years) in the Kollo department of western Niger.
Methods: Community-based key informants were trained to identify children who were suspected of having the impairment types/health conditions included in this study. Children identified by key informants were visited by paediatricians and underwent an assessment for moderate/severe vision, hearing, physical and intellectual impairments, as well as epilepsy, albinism and emotional distress.
Results: 2,561 children were identified by key informants, of whom 2191 were visited by paediatricians (response rate = 85.6%). Overall, 597 children were determined to have an impairment/health condition, giving a prevalence of disability of 11.4 per 1000 children (10.6- 12.2). Intellectual impairment was most common (4.9 per 1000), followed by physical (4.9 per 1000) and hearing impairments (4.7 per 1000). Many children had never sought medical attention for their impairment/health condition, with health-seeking ranging from 40.0% of children with visual impairment to 67.2% for children with physical impairments.
Conclusion: The Key Informant Method enabled the identification of a large number of children with disabling impairments and health conditions in rural Niger, many of whom have unmet needs for health and other services.