“I’m scared to talk about it”: exploring experiences of incontinence for people with and without disabilities in Vanuatu, using mixed methods

September 2021

Incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine and/or faeces. It is stigmatised and can reduce quality of life. People with incontinence require water, sanitation, hygiene (WASH) and incontinence products. People with disabilities are at risk of experiencing incontinence and may face challenges managing, however, minimal evidence exists.

Methods – This study aimed to complete a population-based study of disability in TORBA and SANMA Provinces, Vanuatu to quantify the prevalence and demographics of disability, experience of WASH access and incontinence for people with and without disabilities. It included a survey, case-control study, in-depth interviews, structured observations and PhotoVoice.

Findings – People with disabilities were three times more likely to experience incontinence than people without disabilities. Challenges facing all people with incontinence were distance to latrines and lack of incontinence products. People with disabilities were less able to wash and participate in social activities. Less than 10% had assistive technologies; caregivers had no lifting devices. People experiencing incontinence did not disclose this to others, including medical professionals, who also did not raise the issue.

Key learning – Inaccessible and inadequate WASH, lack of incontinence products and stigma increased isolation for all people with incontinence. Additionally, people with disabilities and caregivers faced discrimination and insufficient assistive technologies. This negatively affected their wellbeing and quality of life, and requires addressing.

Additional details

PublisherThe Lancet Regional Health: Western Pacific
RegionThe Pacific

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