Archbishop Ndlovu calls for attention to the ‘forgotten child’

By Nonhlanhla Ngwenya

Archdiocese of Harare Archbishop, Rt Rev, Robert C Ndlovu has made a call for congregants to pay attention to young people with disabilities and special needs as part of their 2018 Lenten season sacrifices.

The Archbishop in his Lent Campaign Message 2018 expressed the need for the church to pay special attention to the young people who are disabled.

“I appeal to all of us to do our Lenten sacrifice, penance and prayer for the Young People, especially those with disabilities and special needs so as to empower them as Jesus told the lame man at the well, “Rise, take up your mat and walk”. He quoted John 5v8.

In 2013 the Zimbabwe Ministry of Health with the support of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) conducted a survey on disability prevalence in Zimbabwe and the report states that one in thirteen Zimbabweans has a disability.

Seven percent (7%) of the nation’s population which makes up to 900 000 people are living with disabilities. The results show that one in four disabled individuals acquired the disability as children and an estimated 45% were disabled before the age of 20years. The report also reveals that those between the ages of two year and seventeen years have difficulty in walking as well as understanding other people.

The church and the nation at large have seen the growth of a various special needs conditions that require awareness and education for people to understand.

Among other conditions, albinism is one of them.  This condition is an inherited recessive condition with the consequence that the person has no melanin, no pigments resulting in white skin, no color in the hair and often in the fact that the person has low vision.

Alive Albinism founding Director, Gwen Marange said countrywide people with albinism suffer silently to stigma, myths, rape and several forms of social injustice.

She said, with a heavy heart, that the stigma has also led to the killing of people with albinism for body parts and women with albinism getting raped for superstitious beliefs.

Among other challenges people with disability face include discrimination at workplaces, lack of employment and lack of pressing needs such spectacles, sunscreen lotion, long sleeved clothes, hats and shoes, funds for regular checks for skin cancer symptoms and medical treatment.

Duncan Majichi a clinical Psychologist and a member of the Magis netwrok expressed the challenges he has faced working with children with disabilities, stating that they are not well represented in the development agenda.

He added that more often they have no full access to education and employment therefore making it difficult for the disabled to get medical attention. He said that superstitious beliefs and stigmatization towards the disabled has to be urgently addressed if the Church is to help.

“Being the year dedicated to the young people in accordance with our 2018 Pastoral Plan, our Lenten Penance shall be in solidarity with the Young People with disabilities and special needs.  Remember disability does not mean inability”, further reads the Archbishop’s Lenten Campaign Message.

The Archbishop’s message echoes the same sentiments brought forward by Miss Marange and Mr Majichi who both pointed out that the church needs to create a ministry for the disabledrun by the disabled members in the church, run programs such as disability awareness as well as initiate platforms where the church talks about albinism or any other disability.

Both interviewees expressed need for training and access for self-help projects to enhance empowerment.

Mrs Joyce Tsuroh a mother of a 24year old daughter with Down Syndrome said apart from challenges in accessing proper education and training facilities, disabled children also suffer discrimination and exclusion in school.

In most cases, she added, “discrimination is due to parents of able bodied children who do not want their children mixing with disabled children and they then learn separately yet they benefit immensely when mixed.”

Mrs Tsuro went to point out that children with disabilities tend to be abused physically, sexually and verbally, usually by those that they trust.

Many children with disability are being confined and kept away from the public for various reason, fear of rejection being of them.

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