New Projects

Project Title: A multidimensional approach to the assessment of well-being comparing persons with and without disability in Doornkop, Soweto, South Africa.

Our research starting June 2017 envisions to measure capabilities in a context of poverty and to assess whether persons with disabilities are even more deprived of wellbeing than the rest of the population. Our proposed research aims to generate data which enables direct comparisons of human capabilities in South Africa with potentially other studies carried out in countries such as Afghanistan and India, as well as high income countries. In addition, this research aims to make comparisons in the attainment of capabilities between persons with and without disabilities. In generating empirical evidence, measures of human capabilities will also be developed. This study has three linked aims:

  • To assess human capabilities in a South African context;
  • To understand how gender and disability affect human capabilities;
  • To analyse how best to measure human capabilities by engaging in a comparative analysis of data with other countries.

The community of Doornkop is situated on the North-West side of Soweto in Johannesburg, South Africa.  The City of Johannesburg is divided into seven administrative regions (see Figure 1) and 109 wards. Doornkop (ward 50) was identified as the poorest ward in Region C and the seventh most deprived ward in Johannesburg based on domains of income and material, employment, health, education and living environment deprivations (de Wet et al., 2008; Patel et al., 2012).

Doornkop was initially called Snake Park as it was a farming area with a high prevalence of snakes, and was not intended for residential use. It is situated close to a mine dump and in windy months, the mine dust blows in the direction of the residences, which adversely affects the resident’s physical health. Attempts by the government to rectify this included planting grass on the mine dumps, however, the grass was stolen. A limitation of this study was that the effect of the air pollution on physical health and subsequently depression was not explored.

Doornkop is now a formal municipal area consisting of formal brick housing, as well as informal housing in the form of backyard shacks and shack settlements. The streets in the area are tarred, and basic services (such as piped water, sanitation and electricity), social services (such as primary health care clinics, schools and non-governmental community services), and small businesses (such as home-based shops known as ‘spazas’, hair salons, street hawkers and telephone services) are present (Patel et al., 2012). Moreover, community members predominantly belong to the black racial group. The area was chosen due to women in Doornkop exhibiting the highest prevalence of psychiatric disturbances (62.9%) in the JPLS, with elevated rates of psychiatric disturbances associated with women and increasing age of participants (de Wet et al., 2008).


Figure 1. Geographic location of Doornkop within the seven administrative regions in Johannesburg. From “Johannesburg Livelihood and Poverty Study” by de Wet et al., 2008, p.6. Reprinted with permission.



The Center for Evaluation and Development (German name MannheimerZentrumfür Evaluation und Entwicklungsforschung, C4ED ) founded by Prof. Dr. Markus Frölich and the team at the Global Disability and Vulnerability Research group have been selected by the Aga Khan Development Network to evaluate their Health Action Plan for Afghanistan (HAPA) starting in 2017. The study envisions to inform policies and programs that engage with complexity, respond to the needs, and promote the capabilities of the most vulnerable and provide concrete steps for action. Our approach aims at combining quantitative rigorous impact evaluation to qualitative in depth interviews and participatory methods. This study constitutes a unique opportunity for a team of experts from various disciplines (public health, epidemiology, economics) to evaluate over a period of five years the effects on the HAPA beneficiaries in various domains of wellbeing, including water and sanitation, nutrition and food security, access and satisfaction with healthcare using rigorous mixed methods.