MACOHA strengthens participation of parents of children with disabilities with special skills to develop assistive devices

By Duncan Mlanjira

MACOHA has just completed training parents and guardians of children with cerebral palsy disabilities in Chiradzulu, Mangochi and Phalombe in the production of assistive devices using appropriate paper technology using local resources.

This is to further achieve its goal of empowering people with disabilities for them to actively participate and integrate in social economic development activities of their communities and country.

Executive director Georgina Navicha

Speaking at the end of the training, MACOHA’s executive director, Georgina Navicha said her organisation is proud that the parents and guardians of children with disabilities are working hand in hand in order to promote the wellbeing of these children.

“Research indicates that children with disabilities that have good health and wellbeing are happier and more satisfied with their lives, hence do well in school and eventually, they become productive citizens,” she said.

“Your passion to learn more about caring for children with disabilities and producing assistive devices using locally available materials is in line with global laws.”

The trains session

She cited the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Articles 4, 20 and 26, that asks countries to promote the availability of appropriate devices and mobility aids and provide accessible information about them.

“Similarly, the standard rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities also call upon States to support the development, production, distribution and servicing of assistive devices and equipment and the dissemination of knowledge about them.

“By taking part in this programme, you are making it easy for the government its quest to promote accessibility of assistive devices.”

She added that according to statistics, in many low and middle-income countries like Malawi, only 5–15% of people who require assistive devices and technologies have access to them.

This impacted negatively in economic production and often of limited quality as there are very few trained personnel and costs may be prohibitive.

“It is therefore necessary to resort to using local materials so that we make our own assistive devices as without them, children with disabilities may never be educated or be able to work — so the cycle of poverty continues.

“It is our goal at MACOHA that all children with disabilities have access to appropriate assistive devices that are of good quality and enable them to participate in life at home and work and in the community.

“It is our role to work with children with disabilities and their families to determine their needs for assistive devices, facilitate access to assistive devices and ensure maintenance, repair and replacement when necessary. 

“In this regard, let me encourage you to continue working collaboratively with our district structures,” she said.

MACOHA was established by an Act of Parliament — the Handicapped Persons Act 1971 Cap: 33:02 as a statutory corporation.

Other skills taught by MACOHA

It operates under the general direction of the Department of Disability and Elderly Affairs in the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare on technical issues on one hand and the Department of Statutory Corporation on finance and management issues on the other.

MACOHA’s vision is to empower all persons with disabilities in society and its mission is to implement government policies by providing rehabilitation programs and services and promoting public interest towards the empowerment of persons with disabilities in order to achieve an inclusive society.  

MACOHA’s interventions are in the areas of education, health, livelihoods and social inclusion.

Made by MACOHA graduates

The project, under the theme ‘Access to Early Childhood Development and Education for Children with Disabilities in Malawi, was funded by Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) at $50,000 (over K40 million).

In her remarks at the closing of the training, one of the beneficiary parent, Felista Bimu (38) of Maholya Village T/A Nkhumba, Phalombe — whose daughter Kethness (8) has cerebral palsy — says she has learnt a lot and is able to make chairs and standing frames.

“I cannot buy the appropriate chair for my daughter but with this training, I will be able to make the chairs whenever she needs one because this skill will always be in me. I am very thankful to MACOHA,” she said.

Beneficiary Felista Bimu and her daughter

Other MACOHA interventions include implementing Community Based Rehabilitation programmes in 8 districts — Nkhata Bay, Nkhotakota, Salima, Ntchisi, Dowa, Lilongwe, Dedza, Ntcheu — with support from CBM.

MACOHA is also running livelihood programmes in which persons with disabilities are being trained in various skills including tailoring, carpentry and barbering.

After the training, they are equipped with business management skills and business start-up tools. The project is funded by Hope and Healing International.

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