28 February 2019

Malawi: Urgent Action Needed to Improve Accessibility of Wheelchairs-First Lady

Lilongwe — Pic by Roy Nkosi

First lady Prof. Gertrude Mutharika Wednesday said wheelchairs are a necessity for people with disabilities hence urgent action was needed to improve accessibility.

According to World Health Organization, globally it is estimated that more than 70 million people of the global population are in need of a wheelchair.

However, it is only less than 15 per cent that have access to a wheelchair.

Mutharika was speaking in Lilongwe during the opening ceremony of World Vision's promising approach and practice on wheelchair distribution lessons learnt.

She said urgent action to improve access to high quality and affordable wheelchairs was vital and she called upon a collaborative effort with stakeholders to aid in the distribution of wheelchairs.

"The wheelchair is a symbol of freedom and improves the lives of our children with disability by improving their mobility, when we provide wheelchairs to people with disabilities we have empowered them,' the First Lady said.

She said a wheelchair enables freedom of movement, the freedom of association as they could easily mingle and interact with friends adding that the wheelchair is a source of self-confidence and it generates self-esteem in people with disabilities.

Mutharika commended World Vision Malawi (WVM) for extending its aid to a priority area of promoting inclusion and mainstreaming of disability.

According to the National Statistical Office, an estimated four per cent of the population in Malawi, that is nearly 50,000 people, is living with various forms of disability and the worrying greatly that a majority of these are children.

Acting National Director for World Vision Malawi (WVM), Charles Chimombo said rather than delivering long-term services directly, his organization's approach was to work alongside governments, disabled people's organization and other institutions to develop their capacities for long-term accessible service provision.

"Disability inclusion is important to World Vision because we are called to serve those who are living in poverty, are oppressed and made especially vulnerable, such as people with disabilities," he said

Chimombo said their disability inclusion programmes addresses issues of dignity, human rights, poverty and vulnerability.

"We help people with disabilities have the right to fully, equally and meaningfully participate in and benefit from humanitarian assistance and development processes in their communities," he said

Chimombo said since 2015, WVM has supported 339 children with wheelchairs for kids across the country in conjunction with Motivation Africa and Malawi Against Physical Disabilities (MAP).

Since 2015, WVM has supported total of 250 children with hearing aids and has supported 1,339 children with wheelchairs for children across the country.

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