By CHUSA SICHONE –
FIRST Lady Esther Lungu has warned that Zambia is doing itself a de-service by denying children with disabilities an opportunity to participate in day-to-day activities.
Ms Lungu observed with dismay the continued discrimination and marginalisation of children with disabilities in society.
She was speaking when she officiated at the launch of the Education Outreach for Children with Disabilities (EdOCD) organisation in Lusaka on Friday evening.
“Too often children with disabilities have been excluded from mainstream society; too often they have been barred from participating in everyday life; too often they are made to feel that there is no place for them in the socio-economic development of our country.
“Too often they are made to feel that they do not count or have anything to contribute. This attitude is a grave de-service to these children, to their families and to our country,” she said.
There are approximately 93 million children with disabilities worldwide and, according to UNICEF, children with disabilities are one of the most marginalised and excluded groups in society who face discrimination such as negative attitudes, inadequate policies and legislation.
“During my outreach programme in the rural districts of Zambia, I have witnessed that children with disabilities who live in far-flung areas of our country do not attend school, do not have access to medical services nor are their voices heard in society.
“Children with disabilities are also at higher risk of physical abuse and are often excluded from receiving proper nutrition. It is because of this sad state of affairs that we need to mobilise ourselves to address the challenges faced by children with disabilities,” she said.
Ms Lungu challenged the Government to invest and engage partners such as EdOCD to help fight discrimination, dismantle barriers to inclusion, support families, move beyond minimum standards and that on the global level the Post-2015 Development Agenda must be inclusive of children and adults with special needs.
EdOCD chairperson Kangwa Nkandu said the organisation was committed to supplementing the Government’s efforts to mitigate challenges children with disabilities faced by offering various services to help them access inclusive education.
Community Development, Mother and Child Health Deputy Minister Obious Chisala said the Government attached importance to uplifting the living standards of vulnerable groups with emphasis on persons with disabilities, especially children, and his ministry had put in place several measures.
Among the Ministry of Community Development, Mother and Child Health’s interventions were the Social Cash Transfer Scheme, Public Welfare Assistance Scheme, anti-Gender-Based Violence and anti-Human Trafficking, women empowerment and literacy programmes.