Uhambo USA

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Our Mission

alleviating poverty | promoting human rights | removing barriers for people with disabilities in Africa

an organization that transforms lives and makes opportunities accessible to people with physical disabilities in rural and underdeveloped parts of Africa.

Our mission and work directly impacts people with disabilities who are vulnerable and, often times, forgotten.

Our name (Uhambo) means “journey” or “traveling forward” in a South African language, Xhosa. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.

We invite you to learn more about our organization. Consider volunteering, donating, or simply spreading the message of Uhambo today. Help us alleviate poverty, promote human rights, and remove barriers for people with disabilities in Africa.

Uhambo supports people with physical disabilities in rural and underdeveloped areas of Africa by:
  • Creating opportunities for social, economic, physical and emotional development
  • Providing appropriate and holistic needs-driven support services to positively impact the quality of life
  • Removing barriers of access to opportunities, services and resources
  • Advocating for policy change
  • Promoting and supporting rights and equal participation
Uhambo engages with strategic partnerships in the U.S. to support the mission and programs of Uhambo Foundation of South Africa.

The Problem

People with disabilities are the largest marginalized group in the world, and often among the poorest. Solving this social problem relies on addressing the following issues.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) approximately 65 million people worldwide require the use of a wheelchair due to a disability. As many as 80% of people who need wheelchairs live in low-income, developing regions, such as Africa. Only a small percentage of those who need a wheelchair have one. An even smaller number lacks access to services and resources that support their disabilities. We serve this population-not only to provide practical solutions (like wheelchairs), but also to provide the services and support that are necessary for a better life.

1. Recognizing the Lack of Access
  • People we serve live in townships, informal settlements, and rural areas of Africa—they have less access to resources and services than those living in developed or urban areas.
  • They contend with poor living conditions, nutrition, hygiene, and lack of access to basic health services.
  • Their families are frequently trapped in the cycle of poverty and social exclusion due to physical, cultural, and system barriers.
2. Acknowledging a Need for “The Full Package”
  • A wheelchair is only one tool. It is useless without the proper services, support, and policies to promote social change for people with disabilities in developing areas such as Africa.
  • Think about this: What good is a quality wheelchair without policies that provide consistent wheelchair ramps in urban areas?
  • Think about this: What good is a quality wheelchair without knowing how to maintain it? In areas we serve, the closest medical center could be hundreds of miles away.
  • Think about this: What good is a quality wheelchair without the confidence to use it proudly? Some communities carry stigmas about people with disabilities. In addition to providing people with maintenance support, we provide emotional support and strive to promote social change.
3. Distinguishing between Inappropriate & Appropriate Wheelchairs

Not all donated wheelchairs meet WHO’s definition of “appropriate.” But, what does appropriate really mean in this context? According to WHO’s Guidelines on the Provision of Wheelchairs, a wheelchair is appropriate when it:

  • meets the user’s needs and the environmental conditions
  • provides proper fit and postural support
  • is both safe and durable
  • is available in the country
  • can be obtained, maintained, and with services sustained in the county at an affordable cost
Imagine having a physical disability. Now imagine using a wheelchair like the one shown to the right. Unsupported sitting without the correct assistive device causes a variety of inconveniences and serious problems such as discomfort, pain, secondary health problems and deformities in the musculoskeletal system.
4. Understanding Wheelchair Skills

Wheelchair users, their caregivers, and parents in developing countries seldom receive critical, basic health care information or training to assist users in managing their health, disability, and wheelchairs. Consider purchasing a tool without knowing how to properly use it; the people we serve need chairs and the skills to use it effectively.

5. Reversing the Trend of Insufficient Data

Adequate and compelling evidence supporting best practices, economic impact, and improved quality of life as a result of appropriate devices and services needs to be collected in developing countries to inform and influence policy makers and funders so more resources are directed to this vulnerable population

6. Establishing & Implementing Rights & Policies

Currently, government policies of many developing countries do not support the rights of this vulnerable population; further, policies that are in place are not put into practice.

videoinnapchairAn INAPPROPRIATE Chair

An example of an inappropriate wheelchair found in areas of Africa. Unsupported sitting without correct assistive device causes discomfort, pain, secondary health problems, development of deformities in the musculo-skeletal system.

appropchairAn APPROPRIATE Chair

An example of an appropriate wheelchair that meets the World Health Organization's Guidelines on the Provision of Wheelchairs in Less Resourced Countries. Appropriate products are designed to delay the development of health complications caused by incorrect positioning. Read how an appropriate chair can change a wheelchair user's life.

Interested in learning more? Read WHO's guidelines on appropriate wheelchairs.


We have unique and powerful solutions. Uhambo has 20 years of “on-the-ground” experience in Southern Africa, a passionate commitment to appropriate products, services, and support, and an award-winning social entrepreneurial model. Check out our Awards & Recognitions page.
Our comprehensive model focuses on empowering and positively impacting the quality of life for people with physical disabilities by:
  • Providing appropriate wheelchair devices
  • Ensuring our clients have clinical services and support
  • Offering training and skills development to educators and caregivers
  • Creating opportunities for and assisting in the social, economic, physical, and emotional development
  • Providing appropriate, holistic, needs-driven support services
We know that it takes more than providing these services to reverse this problem. In addition to providing people in need with practical tools and services, Uhambo is committed to improving the social and political issues that are the root of the problem. Here, we also seek to engage in:
  • Removing barriers of access to education, community and work
  • Fostering community awareness
  • Advocating for rights and equal participation through policy change and development
  • Initiating and continuing relevant research
  • Uhambo addresses the problem at every level by providing superior programs that are aligned with the WHO Guidelines. Read more about our high impact programs!
Our solutions include: 1. Appropriate Products & Services
  • The right solution
  • A holistic model of support services and products.
  • Services are delivered by locally trained professionals and products are created locally in South Africa by a social enterprise whose workforce partially consists of people with disabilities.
2. Education, Awareness & Partnership Development
  • We train everyone touched by a disability through our community awareness and education programs: wheelchair users, caregivers, family members, wheelchair technicians and rehabilitation workers in communities.
  • Influencing the development of supportive policies by working with leaders in the international development, global health and disability arenas.
  • Create awareness in the U.S. of disability issues in Africa.
  • Develop community networks to build a robust system of support.
  • Partner with the private sector, international NGOs, and nonprofits on relevant mobility initiatives in Africa.
3. Economic Development for People with Disabilities
  • Create economic and social opportunities for people with disabilities.
  • Assist in their development.
4. Research
  • Conduct valuable research that is driven by evidence-based practice.
Uhambo USA is an independent nonprofit created to advance the mission of Uhambo Foundation and Shonaquip of Cape Town, South Africa. Uhambo USA shares the same mission and vision as Uhambo Foundation. Uhambo USA's mission is to further the impact of Uhambo's successful holistic model, mobilize resources and cultivate business partnerships to support Uhambo's expansion in Africa and eventually other developing countries.