By Mercy Makuwatsine
Children and especially those with disabilities are often a marginalised and excluded groups of people.
Too often, these children experience stigma from birth and are more prone to exclusion, concealment, abandonment, institutionalisation and abuse.
They are often excluded from opportunities to participate in their communities and are more vulnerable to violence and abuse.
HIV positive children with disabilities are less likely to receive treatment than those who are able-bodied. While children with disabilities are less likely to go to school, disabled girls are likely to find their access to education even more limited.
Zimbabwe Parents of Handicapped Children Associations (ZPHCA) patron Miriam Rehwai Kangai said there is need to promote equality of opportunity for children with disabilities into all programmatic, operational and organisational activities.
“These children with disabilities have their own ambitions which they have to fulfill. They need to get educational facilities and the nation has to provide the education so that they can fulfill their ambitions,” she said.
Mrs Kangai said there is need for the government in partnership with other stakeholders to provide accommodation to parents whose children have some form of disability.
“It is the duty of the government to provide decent accommodation. The private sector should also chip in to assist these mothers,” she said.
Speaking in an interview, a mother whose child is disabled said their wish is to find decent accommodation as most of them are lodgers.
Most parents of children with disabilities do not own the houses they live in and as a result house-owners do not readily accept them.
“The big challenge is when we are looking for a house. When the landlord discovers that I have a child with disabilities, then they just say there is no accommodation,” said Mrs Chiringa.
Ms Simbe said: "I got a room in Glen View. The landlord had just asked me if I had any children. I told her that I had one child so she said it was alright.
"When I finally moved in to stay at her house she saw my crippled son and what she managed to say was: 'Is this the child?'
"After one week she told me that the house rent had gone up from US$80 to $150, knowing fully well that I could not afford the new rentals."
The ZPHCA has started providing accommodation to some of the parents in the communal areas where they can be able to grow crops for their survival.
Mrs Kangai said, “In terms of housing, the local authorities and the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlements must make an allocation to cater for the parents. The Ministry of Labour and Social Services must put the parents of the children on a priority list.
“The nation has a duty to provide basics which include food, shelter, appropriate medical equipment for whatever condition such as wheelchairs and hearing aides to the children.”
The issue of dental health for children with disabilities has been overlooked for sometime now.
31-year old Barbara Ndowa in Mudzi said, “When you talk about dental health, I don’t know anything.”
Does it mean their oral health is less important?
I feel there is need for more awareness programmes on dental health to children with disabilities.
It is essential to note that when the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare is embarking on oral health programmes, they should also incorporate such children.
The National Disability Survey of Zimbabwe (Department of Social Services, 1982) defines disability as “a physical or mental condition, which makes it difficult or impossible for the person concerned to adequately fulfill his or her normal role in society."
The main disability categories include deaf and hard of hearing (hearing impaired), blind and low vision (visual disability), mental disability(mentally retarded) as well as motor and physical disability (physically disabled).
UNICEF has commended both the electronic and print media in improving coverage of issues to do with children with disabilities, but it has admitted that more needs to be done to highlight the plight of these children.