The 11th Occupational Therapy Africa Region Conference kicked off this week at the Lemigo Hotel in Kigali and will run from August 26th-29th. Rwandan Ministry of Health

OTARG is the Occupational Therapy Africa Regional Group (OTARG) of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) and was formed to promote Occupational Therapy throughout the continent of Africa.

Now in its 11th year, the Occupational Therapy Africa Region Conference, is held every two years in an African country to exchange knowledge and practical skills in order to enhance the profession. The conference brings together a wide group of Occupational Therapists and other professionals to share scientific knowledge, views, and practical experiences. Delegates from 14 different countries are represented this year to share in the conference and marks the first year the event is held in Rwanda.

The theme of the conference this year is "Giving Back Meaning to Life: Occupational Therapy at the Centre". The theme is inspired by various sustainable development goals such as reduction of poverty, good health and well-being, quality education, economic growth, reduction in inequalities, and promoting sustainable cities and communities. The President of OTARG, expressed his anticipation for the conference in his opening address to participants, “this week, we will all experience one of the most knowledge disseminating conferences in the continued advancement of occupational therapy throughout Africa”.

According to the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT), occupational therapy is defined as “a client-centered health profession concerned with promoting health and well-being through occupation. The primary goal of occupational therapy is to enable people to participate in the activities of everyday life. Occupational Therapists achieve this outcome by working with people and communities to enhance their ability to engage in the occupations they want to, need to, or are expected to do, or by modifying the occupation or the environment to better support their occupational engagement.” (WFOT, 2012)

Occupational Therapists work to assess and treat individuals of all ages, from a variety of settings. In order to give clients the opportunity to live to their fullest potential, Occupational Therapists focus on formulating interventions for those living with disabilities and to enable them to perform activities of daily living with greater ease or independence.

Occupational Therapy continues to be a growing profession in Rwanda. The College of Medicine and Health Sciences (CMHS) at the University of Rwanda launched the Occupational Therapy Education Program in 2014. The four-year bachelor’s degree program was developed to train qualified individuals in order to fill the void of Occupational Therapists in Rwanda. The first cohort of students graduated in October 2018 and are currently employed in various health settings.

Currently, Occupational Therapy services are provided at Rwanda Military Hospital in Kanombe, HVP Gatagara Centers in Gikondo and Nyanza, CARAES in Ndera, and the Silver Bell School located in Gasabo District.