By Bathabile Dlamini
Harare, September 16, 2015: A United States government funded wheelchair project, the Comprehensive Mobility Support Project (CMSP), enabled Jairos Jiri Association to provide comprehensive and sustainable support for persons with mobility disability in six provinces in Zimbabwe over three years, a representative of the consortium said on Tuesday.
“Since 2012, we have procured nearly 1,600 wheelchairs and provided comprehensive support services including adaptation, postural support, and rehabilitation for persons with mobility disability,” said Deborah Tigere, Country Program Manager of Christian Blind Mission (CBM). CBM is an international Christian development organization working to create an inclusive world in which all people with disabilities enjoy their human rights and achieve their full potential.
Tigere said the Comprehensive Mobility Support Project was started in 2012 with funding support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and jointly implemented in Zimbabwe by Jairos Jiri Association, in partnership with Christian Blind Mission and the Ministry of Health and Child Care until February 2015.
This partnership has enabled over 100 Zimbabweans to be trained in internationally-accepted standards of wheelchair provision in Zimbabwe. 20 workshop personnel were trained in wheelchair assembly, fabrication, modification, maintenance, and repairs. 59 rehabilitation workers received training in basic wheelchair service delivery and an additional 30 individuals in intermediate wheelchair service delivery using the World Health Organization (WHO) basic and intermediate level wheelchair service training packages. The training was complemented with follow up workshops and six-month intermediate level clinical mentoring and support, she said.
As a result, rehabilitation workers conduct regular assessments and user training sessions, which are followed up by regular support – such as user fitting, wheelchair modification, repair, and maintenance – from wheelchair technicians. In addition, tools, spare parts, and materials for modifications were provided for the six wheelchair workshops supporting the 16 seating clinics.
The project was implemented in six provinces: Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Masvingo, Bulawayo, Harare, and Mashonaland East. Participants from other provinces also attended the designated seating clinics and wheelchair workshops.
According to CBM, people with disabilities in developing countries are often excluded from basic health services provision and are more vulnerable to health conditions and illnesses. Discrimination also results in few children and youth with disabilities attending school, and few adults with disabilities able to earn a living, which contributes to even greater poverty for them and their families.
Tigere said the model can be replicated for people with disabilities to increase their function and level of participation in everyday activities in their communities such as school, employment, and access to health services. “We adopted the World Health Organization Wheelchair guidelines of 2008applicable in less resourced settings. These incorporate eight wheelchair service steps, namely referral and appointment, assessment, prescription (selection), funding and ordering, product preparation, fitting, user training, and follow-up, maintenance and repairs,” she said.
Tigere, who travelled to the United States recently as part of the International Visitors Leadership Program tailored for professionals working on disability issues, said Zimbabwe had a lot to learn from the experiences of the United States. Sharing her experiences during a Food for Thought discussion session held at the Embassy’s Public Affairs Section, Tigere said after witnessing the 25th commemoration of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), she was invigorated to ensure inclusive education academically, emotionally, and socially to support children with disabilities in Zimbabwe.
“My vision is to see a Zimbabwe where people with disabilities are included into the mainstream, with equal access to opportunities and promoting positive change in policy and attitude,” she said.
She acknowledged several milestones that Zimbabwe had achieved since the enactment of disability legislation in 1992. In addition, she noted, Zimbabwe ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities in September 2013. – ZimPAS