17 January 2019
Breaking News

Saving children from treatable disabilities

Written by  Steve Chirombo
Margret Sande (Centre) after treatment poses with MRCS' Cecilia Banda and MACOHA's Elizabeth Khumbanyiwa - Pic by Steve Chirombo Margret Sande (Centre) after treatment poses with MRCS' Cecilia Banda and MACOHA's Elizabeth Khumbanyiwa - Pic by Steve Chirombo

Chikwawa, September 4, 2018: Born in one of the most remote areas in Chikwawa some 13 years ago, little did her father know that she would develop rickets, a disease in which bones become soft and not shaped correctly.

Christopher Sande of Thomasi Village in the area of Senior Chief Chapananga in Chikwawa narrates how his daughter Margret was born normally just like any other child but later developed the health problem. 

“As she grew up, between the age of 6 and 7, we started noticing some deformities in her legs. They started bending and she had difficulties to walk.

“When she reached Standard 3, her condition worsened,” Sande says.

Malawi Red Cross Society (MRCS) through the Malawi Council for the Handicapped (MACOHA) swiftly intervened to save little Margret from rickets which, if left unchecked, could have affected her future.

MACOHA’s Rehabilitation Officer for Chikwawa, Elizabeth Khumbanyiwa says Margaret was discovered after MRCS supported MACOHA with the necessary resources to go around Chapananga, MRCS’s impact area, to identify children that had various forms of disabilities.

Margret Sande before operation 

“Throughout our work, we identified over 300 kids that had various forms of disabilities and 90 of them were selected for special attention.

“Later, two were spotted to undergo required operational services including Margret whose condition was worse,” Khumbanyiwa says.

She adds that that MRCS recommended that Margret be taken to Beit Cure International Hospital in Blantyre for treatment where it was established that it would take nine months for her to get better.

Margret, nonetheless, was discharged after two months and continued to receive treatment from home for the rest of the period until she got completely healed.

“While at Beit Cure, she went through physical exercises which helped her get back to her feet,” Khumbayiwa says.

A team of MRCS officers and journalists visits Margret’s home, 40 kilometres from Chikwawa District Council offices, to check on her.

On arrival, the visitors realize that she is away from home.

Her absence signals that she is now better and able to visit family and friends around the village –something that was impossible before treatment.

“During her treatment at Beit Cure, she used to tell me that she could not wait to be discharged and see her friends or even run faster before them,” Khumbanyiwa says.

Fifteen minutes pass but Margret is still nowhere to be seen. Probably, she is, indeed, now able to walk long distances.

When a group of young children are sent out to look for her, Margret appears running down to her home with the kids trailing her.

She is visibly surprised to see a group of strangers waiting for her and wonders what they are up to.

“As you can see, Margret can now walk without any support,” Nkhumbanyiwa says as Margret approaches the visitors.

Margret’s parents are full of joy and thank MRCS and MACOHA for changing their daughter’s life.

“On behalf of my family members and my wife, let me appreciate the partners involved in the whole process which has finally seen Margret walking again.

“I am also happy to inform everyone here that Margret is going back to school in September,” says excited Sande.

He recalls how her daughter suffered stigma in the community.

“She was not living a normal life. Her close friends started shunning her as the condition worsened.

“But following the successful operation, she can walk to her friends even in far places. She is confident and her life has completely changed for better,” Sande says.

However, Nkhumbanyiwa says the prevalence of children with physical disabilities, especially hearing impairment, is high in the area.

“But one of the problems we have noted throughout our visits for the identification exercise is lack of interest among most parents and guardians to seek medical attention.

“If parents do not change or if we don’t see partners coming in to help on mindset change, the problem will persist,” she says.

Khumbanyiwa adds that some households are vulnerable and do not know where to refer various health related conditions.

MRCS Project Officer for Chikwawa Cecilia Banda says through the Community Resilience Project, the organization wants to see the establishment of strong links between the needy and service providers.

Banda says the society wants to identify the needy and link them with relevant partners for support.

“We want to make people aware that there are some organisations that can help solve the challenges they are experiencing,” Banda says.

“That is why we brought in MACOHA who were able to identify children like Margret that were supposed to be helped in one way or the other,” she says.

Banda adds that, obviously, there are other children with similar disabilities in the area and calls upon parents and guardians to come out and access treatment.

“We are happy as MRCS that Margaret has been healed and that her parents feel she can now go back to school,” she says.

“We will ensure that she, indeed, goes back to school up until she completes her education as one way of promoting girl-child education in the country,” Banda says.

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