By Duncan Mlanjira
Special Olympics Malawi organization has partnered with Malawi Relief Fund UK (MRF-UK) in a special programme in which the Special Olympics reaches out to primary schools which enroll special needs learners to facilitate health screening exercises.
Malawi’s Special Olympics reaches out to schools in more than 24 districts in Malawi in conjunction with Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare and on Friday, January 24, the exercise was done at Mponda Primary School in the City of Zomba.
It was graced by Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare, Mary Navicha; her Principal Secretary Erica Maganga; Zomba City Mayor Benson Bulla; MRF-UK’s Country Coordinator Yakut Valli; Special Olympics Director Enid Mauluka amongst others.
The delegation were taken on a visit to four classes at Mponda where the screening exercise was being done on the learners, who have intellectual disabilities.
These learners, who are also Special Olympics athletes, are screened by medical experts to detect if they have extra defects on them which might require immediate medical attention.
MRF-UK sponsored the whole health screening camp that included equipment and drugs for the dental, eye, skin, mental and other related tests including funding the logistics of hosting the delegates at over K4.5 million.
During speeches, Valli said MRF-UK felt duty bound to take part and support the efforts of Special Olympics Malawi of uplifting the intellectual ability amongst people with mental challenges in Malawi.
“We have done this because we have realised that many people in our communities look down upon people with mental challenges as they think they have nothing to offer to the society.
“This to us is a misconception and a discrimination as we are believe that if supported, people with mental challenges can be able to contribute towards the development of our country.”
He added that their participation is a great honour for their organization as they feel very proud that they continue to put smiles on the faces of Malawians regardless of their social status in society.
He applauded Special Olympics Malawi for the wonderful work they are doing in providing an intellectual shelter to fellow Malawians who are born with mental challenges.
“As a well meaning organization, MRF-UK will continue to work with the government and other relevant organizations to provide the necessary support to those in need,” Valli said.
In her remarks, Minister Navicha said the world today is preaching inclusive education by allowing everyone, regardless of their ability, to access services such as education, health, sports, employment, leadership and participation in development in general.
“My Ministry is a champion of inclusion and let me assure the Special Olympics that we are speaking the same language.
“It is encouraging to learn that they believe in equal opportunities and treatment for people with intellectual disabilities on the play field, in a classroom, in the office and everywhere else.”
Navicha observed that people with intellectual disabilities are vulnerable to diseases, some are born with complications that they grow up with while others get complications as they grow up.
She said people with intellectual disabilities do not have a shorter life span but their lives are shortened due to lack of access to health services and where such facilities are available, priority is given to those without disability.
She applauded Special Olympics for using sports as tool to transform lives of of such people, which is therapeutic on its own.
“It is a health intervention which needs to be complimented by everyone and that’s why we feel honored with the sponsorship from Malawi Relief Fund UK.”
This was the 5th intervention by MRF-UK’s and Navicha urged the charitable organization not to give up but to reach out to more districts to improve their health status.
Special Olympics director of marketing and fundraising, Duncan Gumbi said since its inception in 1993, most of their athletes have brought back medals from international competitions and that currently they have 5 athletes who are in Egypt for the All Africa Games.
He urged health facilities not to discriminate people with intellectual disability as is the case now.
In November MRF-UK partnered with Islamic Zakaat Fund (IZF) in investing over K900 million over a period of 4 years to provide financial support for 224 underprivileged Malawian students to complete higher tertiary education in various universities and colleges across the country.
Malawi Relief Fund UK is a Charity registered in the UK and a registered NGO in Malawi aimed at alleviating poverty in Malawi.
Since its establishment, it has been working in Central and Southern regions of Malawi for the past 10 years.