Malawi Council for the Handicapped (MACOHA) has rolled out a Cyclone Freddy Disaster Response Project targeting persons with disabilities who lost their assistive devices during the tragedy.
The project is being funded by Christian Blind Mission (CBM) and will be implemented in Blantyre, Nsanje and Mulanje districts.
MACOHA Public Relations Officer, Harriet Kachimanga, said the K33 million project will see persons with disabilities who were affected by Cyclone Freddy receiving assistive devices of different types.
“Although it is challenging to ascertain how many persons with disabilities were affected by the floods there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that persons with disabilities have lost their property including assistive devices such as wheelchairs, clutches, hearing aids, sun glasses, white canes, just to mention a few. While available official data indicate that over 47,000 persons with disabilities were displaced because of the Cyclone, over 4000 lost their assistive devices,” said Kachimanga.
She lamented that there has been no deliberate attempt by the mainstream stakeholders to capture and identify persons with disabilities who have been affected and displaced to various places as most of the data is not segregated.
Kachimanga said despite humanitarian actors working with the Government of Malawi to respond to protection concerns, including child protection, mental health and psychosocial support, there has been no efforts specifically targeting persons with disabilities.
“The loss of assistive devices like wheelchairs has made this even more challenging, and has caused a significant decrease in mobility and independent living for those affected. For those with mobility challenges, the loss of a wheelchair or cane has meant that they are completely reliant on family members or friends to move around, and are often unable to access social amenities such as healthcare facilities, schools and business premises or water, sanitation and hygiene services,” she said.
A 45-year-old Malaya Dyson of Muleno Village in the area of Traditional Authority Ndamera in Nsanje is one of the persons with disabilities who lost his assistive devices. Currently sheltered at Jimu Camp together with his family, Dyson says he struggles to fend for his family because his tricycle got damaged on the night of March 9th, 2023 when the wall of his house fell onto it.
This is certainly double calamity for a person with a disability as it incapacitated him.
“It rained heavily that night. Around midnight, part of the wall of our house fell. We screamed for help and people rushed to rescue us. I was carried away to a safer place. When we went back to the house in the morning, I found that one of my tricycle’s wheels was completely damaged. We found a welder to fix it but it does not function as it used to since I cannot move for long distances,” he narrated.
According to Dyson, he even stopped doing his fish business because of the loss of the assistive device.
Kachimanga has disclosed that MACOHA has identified and assessed beneficiaries of the project in an exercise that involved medical personnel from Malawi Against Physical Disabilities and Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital.
Distribution of the devices is expected to commence in the subsequent weeks, she said.