SHIKANDA KAWANGA, Livingstone
WOMEN continue to bear a heavier burden when it comes to balancing work and family.
Mothers spend about twice as much time with their children as fathers do.
Very few fathers care about housework and childcare in their homes.
One known fact is that any child takes up an enormous amount of time in such efforts like keeping them fed, housed, and educated but this is worse for a child with a physical disability as caring for them may take more years and in some cases forever if no proper rehabilitation is conducted.
Some mothers have abandoned their work especially those that cannot pay a maid to take care of their physically challenged child.
It is for this reason that government this year scaled-up social programmes that are meant to alleviate the suffering of persons with disabilities including their parents who are often discriminated and marginalised.
Minister of Community Development and Social Services Emerine Kabanshi said the persons with disabilities were the key target to the country’s social cash transfer programme which has been doubled to K500 million from K250 million in the last one year.
“The Social Cash Transfer programme has since been scaled up from 78 districts in 2016 to all the districts across the country and the number of beneficiaries is expected to increase from the current 242,000 households to more than 600,000,” she said.
As Government continues to set the tone in programmes targeted at addressing challenges that families and people with disabilities face, one non-governmental organisation is also following suit.
The Livingstone-based Norwegian funded NGO, Community Based Rehabilitation which donated assorted assistive devices worth K200,000 to Livingstone, Zimba, Kazungula and Monze districts in the Southern Province, with plans to scale it up across the country.
Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) Zambia senior adviser Alick Nyirenda said the assistive devices are meant to help in rehabilitating the people with disabilities.
The provision of the assistive devices is key in promoting full participation of children with disabilities.
He said CBR identified the need for assistive devices and
rehabilitation among the children living with disabilities hence the procurement of the basic equipment.
With the assistive devices, the NGO hopes to increase children with disability’s access to education and allow their parents time for other chores and also engage in economic activities.
“Rehabilitation is important. A child who has been provided with physiotherapy, occupational therapy and other forms of rehabilitation like surgical interventions and other support is able to get back in class.”
“If a child has a broken leg and they have an artificial limb, it means that they have been rehabilitated and can participate fully in the community,” he said.
In addition to the assistive devices, CBR will this year train 150 parent groups countrywide in basic rehabilitation skills to decentralise rehabilitation services.
Parents, especially mothers, take care of children on a daily basis so they must be equipped with knowledge of identifying disabilities early.
He said there are some parents who rarely take their children for under five clinic especially in rural areas, where health centers are far away.
“Once the trainings are conducted, parents must be able to identify any disability on the child then make an effort to visit the health centre. We will also teach them how to prevent disabilities and how to manage a disability when it occurs,” he said
Mr Nyirenda said parents will also be empowered with knowledge on how to use the available assistive devices in the process of rehabilitating the children.
He added that the parents will also be trained on how to make some assistive devices using paper.
“We want to ensure that these parents are taught to help the children with disabilities accept and live with the condition and also get the rehabilitation so that they can go to school and get involved in mainstream society,” he said.
He noted that some of the disabled children might not manage to go to school due to distance adding but the trained parents will help the children with daily living activities such as dressing up, and bathing.
The training is important because disabled children enjoy the comfort of their homes whilst undergoing rehabilitation unlike making regular visits to the health centres.
Mr Nyirenda said the trained parents will be more like community workers so that they supplement the efforts of health personnel.
And Zambia Association of Parents for Children with Disabilities (ZAPCD) coordinator Astridah Kunda called for the need to empower mothers so that they raise responsible children with disabilities to reduce the number of beggars on the streets.
She said this shows that there was need to support the disabled parents so that they can be raised into responsible adults that can contribute to the economic development of the country.
Ms Kunda said raising a child with a special need was not easy because in some cases mothers have to abandon their work and concentrate on caring for the child.
She said the empowerment of mothers of children with special needs was vital because most of the times the fathers could either call for a divorce or dissociate themselves with children with the disabilities.
Ms Kunda said men also need to be sensitised on embracing the children born with disabilities.
“Children with disabilities need to be cared for and their rights protected, these children need to be loved especially by parents,” she said.
Ms Kunda said once a parent has a negative attitude towards a disabled child, it becomes difficult for society to accept that children.