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321 PWDs Benefit From UNICEF Child Protection Net

By Shingirai Vambe

Masvingo Province is one of the provinces that lies in Region 4. It receives less than 200mm of rainfall annually. This impacts negatively on the social aspect and well-being as droughts are experienced even when the rest of Zimbabwe has good harvests. Natural disasters, such as the cyclone IDAI, hit the province hard in 2019.

Perennial food shortages are a norm. This has seen the Government of Zimbabwe together with development partners coming to the rescue.
The hard hit amongst the populace, are people with disabilities extra need by people taking care of Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) arise which has been identified by United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF).

Parents and guardians of children living with disabilities have gone to the extent of hiding their children from the society, they shun away from the public and in most cases avoid gatherings as they are identified with the disability of the child and because of different beliefs and it is this understanding that they are also living with disability as they can’t work or associate with others as they spend most of their time nursing.

The program by UNICEF of protecting the child, has gone further to also protect parents and guardians through capacity building and trainings on various health and educational subjects, knowing they are also part of the society equally deserving opportunities that any other persons are getting and for communities to know and understand the need to accommodate such care givers.

Usually, women bear the brunt of hardships. However, a media tour facilitated by UNICEF was an eye-opener, as men also face the survival matrix in the midst of economic hardships with some men doubling up after the death of a wife, the going has been tough.

The UNICEF programme got US$5.8 million shot in the arm from the Embassy of Sweden. It is meant to improve care, protection, and service provision for all children and adolescents with disabilities.

The parent-to-parent support groups, stimulation centres, and peer to peer support groups will see the effective implementation of the programme.

This will result in strengthened individualised care planning and professional support from relevant government departments to collaborate and strengthen the parental roles in interventions that support children and adolescents with disabilities.

This will improve the well-being, psychosocial, and mental well-being of caregivers and their children and adolescents with disabilities. Strengthened national systems in disability programming and disability inclusion relevant to care and support of children with disabilities including social protection programmes that are inclusive of children and adolescents with disabilities and their caregivers.

Earlier, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Service Labour and Social Welfare summoned the parent ministry to respond on measures being put in dealing with increasing numbers of beggars using persons with disability in the streets of Harare.

Ignatius Murambidzi, Director at the Zimbabwe National Association for Mental Health, said the program by development partners is helping children with disabilities from all sorts of exploitation, including sexual abuse.

The ministry through the Permanent Secretary, Simon Masanga said as the welfare ministry, they are in the process of making consultations hoping to engage with responsible authorities so that those with disabilities are taken into safe spaces while those exploiting and using persons with disabilities to beg for money and food in the streets are arrested.

The majority of PWDs have been known to be beggars as a way of living due to another reason noted during the tour that the parent ministry is inadequately providing safety nets for this particular constituency.

Having identified the existing gap, the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare in collaboration with UNICEF, with funding from the Government of Sweden, the Government of Norway (Norad), and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation working with implementing partner Zimbabwe Parents of Handiccaped Children Association (ZPHCA), are working in closing these identified gaps in Zimbabwe.

Victoria Batidzira, a social worker in Chivi, told this publication that programmes they had carried out so far have been very helpful, especially those with visual and hearing impairment. She said her job has made her assist quite a number of parents to come out in the public as well as get their children and family members’ identity documents.

With this workload parents who gathered at the ZPHCA said they found a safe space and through this funding, they have managed to equip themselves with knowledge in, carpentry garment making and artefacts which keep them busy while able to get an income.

ZPHCA director, Ronald Mazango said they have gone for more than 10 years without any grant, making it difficult for more than 16,000 PWDs in 9 centres of Zimbabwe. The had shortages of sanitary wear and diapers to the extent of one using a napkin for menstruation.

Through this fund and assistance by other partners, the association has received material and sewing machines for the constituency to manufacture reusable sanitary wear. PWDs and caregivers got the opportunity to learn and share reproductive health, knowing that PWDS also experience the same thing, just like an able boded person.

Parents who spoke to this publication said they face mobility challenges and suitable bathing space or material for their children who are unable to walk or sit.

Martha Farainashe, told the Post on Sunday Newspaper that her 2 year old boy, Edmund Farainashe is her worry, despite having other kids being sent away from school because of non-payment of school fees.

Martha said her 14 year old form 2 son and another grade 6 pupil were on Basic Education Assistance Module and they were later remove, she doesn’t know why they were removed on BEAM list, lamenting health challenges affecting her husband who is a builder and now struggling to make ends meet.

Her appeal is to have diapers and mosquito nets because of the region which is of high temperatures and her son, Edmund struggles with mosquito he he cannot chase them away, move or do anything, at the same time being visually impaired.

Dorica Mavindidze, Voluntary care worker said there was need to have more mature health workers in the community, who are able to also communicate in sign language while getting a good sustainable allowance for their upkeep as they have gone for more than two years without receiving anything for their upkeep even bicycles and in most cases forced to walk long distances in the district.

Mobility challenges was cited as the major hindrance to social cooperation even in other life activities, forced to walk long distances with their children in the wheel barrow or scotch cart because they don’t have wheel chairs, and director, cited the need for assistive devices.

Dorica spoke of the apostolic sect, who in most cases don’t want to take their children to the hospital for vaccinations.

One of the members of the apostolic sect, Rumbidzai Musiwa said her daughter who is now 27 years, was healed after taking her to church.
She blames the disability to witchcraft and evil spirits.