Every year, millions of children worldwide are at risk of developmental difficulties and disabilities, particularly in resource-constrained countries. We estimated the financial burden faced by families caring for a young child with developmental disability in Uganda. The findings were alarming, with families spending on average $949 annually on illness-related costs, including seeking care and loss of employment income. This exceeded the national average household expenditure, and the cost of illness for all households was over 100% of the national GDP per capita. Caregivers faced economic consequences and resorted to wealth-reducing coping strategies in 84% of cases. Families caring for children with severe impairment incurred even higher costs, with paternal abandonment also being common, resulting in financial loss for affected mothers. Caring for a young child with developmental disability was unaffordable for all households. Early care and support programs have the potential to alleviate these financial burdens, but national efforts are urgently needed to address this catastrophic health expenditure. Together, we can make a difference for these marginalised children and their families.

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