CHRISTINE CHIHAME, Mansa
AT 19, Abednego Chungu cannot eat, stand, bath or do anything on his own and solely depends on his mother for survival because he has cerebral palsy.Abednego, who was born with the condition, is also shunned by his friends, relatives and members of the public.
Just at the age one, he was abandoned by his father, who could not bear the shame of having a child like him, whom he described as a curse.
Abednego now lives with his mother, Florence Chungu, 36, who is jobless because she spends most of her time taking care of her son.
The single mother cannot even afford to take him for medical check-ups nor for physiotherapy because of lack of resources.
While his friends are advancing in their education by going to colleges and universities, Abednego, who does not talk, has never stepped inside of a classroom.
And Ms Chungu, a mother of four, says Abednego is her first-born child and that he has suffered discrimination from her relatives and friends.
She says she faces a lot of challenges in taking care of her child because he does not have a wheelchair.
Ms Chungu says most parents with children with cerebral palsy abandon them and others opt to kill them out of frustrations.
She says she has to carry her child on her back wherever she goes, which can be cumbersome sometimes because of his age.
“I cannot afford to take my child for physiotherapy because I have to carry him on my back wherever I go. I also have to bath him and feed him. Right now I am suffering from body pains because it is becoming unbearable for me to carry my son wherever I go,” Ms Chungu says.
Ms Chungu says ever since her husband abandoned her, she has been facing challenges in taking care of Abednego.
She says she has to carry her sick child to the toilet and has to help him. Her husband abandoned her when her son was only one year old.
She appeals to well-wishers to help her son with a standing chair and wheelchair to make his life easy.
Allan Muleya, a nutritionist at Mansa General Hospital, said cerebral palsy is caused by a lot of factors which include the diet of a mother during pregnancy.
Mr Muleya said cerebral palsy can be a result of a brain injury or brain malformation that occurs during or immediately after child birth when the brain of the infant is still developing.
“Most expectant mothers do not attend their ante-natal clinics in most cases. During the clinics, mothers are taught what to eat and how to take care of themselves when they are pregnant,” he said.
Mr Muleya said during antenatal, expectant mothers are given Folic acid and Ferrous tablets, which they are supposed to take every day for the well-being of the unborn baby.
He said taking a lot of alcoholic beverages in pregnancy also contributes to children having cerebral palsy.
Mr Muleya appealed to expectant mothers to ensure that they eat a proper diet and adhere to strict guidelines they are given during ante-natal sessions.
A non-governmental organisation based in Mansa, A Cry for a Disabled Youth and Parent Mouthpiece, estimates that about 150 mothers in Mansa with children suffering from cerebral palsy face discrimination from members of the public and they have been abandoned by their husbands.
The NGO has called on Government to build a school for disabled persons in Mansa.
Organisation chairlady Irene Kalanga said her association takes care of 150 children living with epilepsy and hydrocephalic.
She said most disabled children often drop out of school due to stigma.
Ms Kalenga said parents with cerebral palsy children also hide their children from members of the public for fear of being mocked.
And Mwamba Chilangwa, wife of Luapula Province Minister Nixon Chilangwa, who held a luncheon for children with cerebral palsy at her house recently, urged the parents to love and take care of their children regardless of their condition. Mrs Chilangwa said it is sad that members of the public mock children with cerebral palsy and call them many different names because of their condition.
CHRISTINE CHIHAME, Mansa