Disability Statistics:


Source: Chapter 4, 2002 Population and Housing Census, Analytical Report



There is a general agreement among the public that given opportunity people with disabilities can play a constructive role and make a significant contribution to the development process of our country.

The incidence of disability in Tanzania stood at 2 percent. However, the proportion of persons with disability was higher among males (2.2 percent) than females (1.7 percent). The common disabilities were leprosy/physically handicapped (47.9 percent), mentally handicapped (16.3 percent), multiple handicapped (13.3 percent) and dumb/hearing impaired (13.1 percent).


Types of Disability

The word disability is subjected to a wide variety of interpretations. A study on the subject yields many definitions based on medical, legal, sociological, physiological or even subjective emphasis.Definition can influence the way in which people with disabilities are perceived by the society and by themselves.

A question asked in the 2002 census was “Is he/she:

Not disabled

Physically handicapped/leprosy

Visually impaired


Hearing/Speech impaired


Mentally handicapped

Multiple handicapped

Many people who were involved in the field did not properly understand this question. The question as it appears gives the onus of defining disability to both the enumerator and the respondent. Since disability means different things to different people in different backgrounds and given the stigma and prejudice attached to it, the probability of inadequate and wrongly conceived concepts is high.

The types of disability specified in the census tabulations are:

Physically impaired

Visually impaired

Hearing impaired

Intellectually impaired


Multiple impaired, i.e., a combination of two or more disability categories.

The number of disabled persons recorded in the 2003 census was 676,502, or 2.0 percent of the total population. Corresponding prevalence rates in selected countries are Nigeria (0.5%), Sudan (1.6%), Uganda (1.2%), and Zambia (0.9%). However, some other African countries have recorded higher rates, for example, Namibia (5%), South Africa (5.9%), Ethiopia (3.8%), probably due to liberation wars and internal conflicts, which were common in the previous years in those countries.

People with physical impairments have the largest proportion (47.9%), followed by the intellectually impaired (16.3%), and multiple impaired (13.3%). The albinos have the lowest proportion (1.0%).


Distribution of People with Disability by Type of Disability: 2002

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Disability by Age and Sex

Table 4.2 presents the number of disabled persons and prevalence rates by age and sex. As will be seen in the table, disabled males outnumber disabled females. Of the total disabled, 54.9 percent are males, 40.1 percent females. The prevalence rate is 2.2 percent for male and 1.7 percent for female.

It is also observed that the higher the age, the higher the prevalence rate. For ages 65 years and over,the prevalence rate is 7.8 percent for both sexes, 8.4 percent for male and 7.3 percent for female.


Table 4.2 Disabled Persons by Age and Sex: 2002

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Note: “% disabled” is the number of disabled persons in a given age and sex category expressed as percentage of population in that category.

Table 4.3 shows distribution of disabled persons by type of disability for broad age groups, and Table 4.4 presents, for broad age groups, disabled persons by type of disability as expressed in percentage of the total population in each age group.

Data in these two tables suggest that there are differences in the patterns of type of disability between age groups. While “physically impaired” accounted for the highest share in the disabled persons in all age groups, the type of disability that had the second highest share was “dumb/hearing impaired” in younger ages, “intellectually impaired” in working ages, and “visually impaired” in older ages.


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4.4 Disability by Social and Economic Characteristics

4.4.1 Marital Status of Disabled Persons

Marital status is an important yardstick in the life of an adult individual particularly in African settings. The status of an adult individual in our communities is determined by among other things, his/her marital status. Unmarried adult men are often regarded as being less of men. Morality thus is determined by an individual’s marital status. It is also a safety net in the event one falls sick or has some misfortune. Children’s identity and cultural values are maintained through marriage or family.

Because of limitations imposed by disability very few disabled persons are married. Communities have negative attitude towards this affair. Disability is taken to be a barrier of not allowing the person with disability to get married.

Many people still believe that persons with disabilities once married will have offspring with disabilities. It is also believed that a husband as a leader of the household he cannot manage it effectively. On the other hand, a wife with disability is believed to be incapable to serve her children, husband and his relatives very effectively. People with disabilities have the right to get married and the society must realize that disability is not inability.

The extent to which this social formation influences fertility is gradually losing its power as many people with disability do have children out of wedlock or opt not to have children even through married. Table 4.5 shows percentage distribution of persons with disability aged 15 years and over by marital status.


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It will be seen in Table 4.5 that a half (51 percent) of males with disability aged 15 years and over are never married, 40 percent married or cohabiting, and 6 percent divorced or separated. For females with disability aged 15 years and over, 43 percent are never married, 31 percent married or cohabiting, and 10 percent divorced or separated. The corresponding percentages for males and females aged 15 years and over including those without disability are 39 percent never married, 56 percent married or cohabiting, and 3 percent divorced or separated for males, 25 percent, 60 percent and 7 percent

respectively for females. It is clear that the percentage never married and the percentage divorced or separated are higher, while percentage of married or cohabiting is lower among people with disability. Looking at the percentage disabled by marital status, it is observed that the percentage disabled is remarkably high among divorcees and those separated for both male and female.


4.4.2 Educational Status of Disabled Persons

Education is an important factor in personal and national development. A person with education is more capable of handling his or her life socially and economically than a person without or with little formal education. There is a close relationship between education and poverty reduction; employment creation; environmental protection; women empowerment and social integration. The Government of United Republic of Tanzania and the Zanzibar Revolutionary Government both seek to provide all citizens with education, which is appropriate to their needs and abilities and meets the country’s development aspirations. However, education sector faces the problem of insufficient resources, which makes implementation of the policy of universal access to education difficult.

This section will examine the current state of access to the formal education for people with disability on the basis of data on school attendance revealed by the 2002 Population and Housing Census. Table 4.6 gives the proportion of disabled persons among those attending school in age groups 5-6 years, 7-13 years, 14-17 years 18-19 years and 20-24 years.


Table 4.6 Disabled Persons Attending School in Age Groups 5-6, 7-13, 14-17, 18-19, 20-24 Years: 2002

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Note: Percentage disabled is the number of disabled persons in a given age and sex category expressed as percentage of population in that category.

It will be seen from Table 4.6 that, of those attending school in age groups 5-6 years, 7-13 years, 14-17 years 18-19 years and 20-24 years, persons with disability account for about 1 percent in all age groups under consideration for both male and female.

Table 4.7 shows a comparison of the percentage attending school of persons with disability in age groups as in Table 4.6 with that of persons without disability.

It can be seen from Table 4.7 that the proportion attending school is considerably low among those with disability, compared to those without disability. In the age group 7-13 years, which is the normal, lower age group for 7 year primary course, the proportion attending school is 40 percent for the disabled, as compared to 70 percent for those without disability. In age groups 14-17 years corresponding to the normal lower age groups for 4 year lower secondary course and 2 year upper secondary course, respectively, the proportion attending school is 30 percent (34 percent for male and 25 percent for female) and 8 percent (12 percent for male and 5 percent for female) respectively for those with disability, as against 56 percent (60 percent for male and 52 percent for female) and 17 percent (22 percent for male and 12 percent for female) for those without disability.