Living with disabilities in Zambia

For seven-year-old Witness and five-year-old Favour, the already challenging circumstances they are growing up in have extra obstacles they must overcome

Back to all stories | Posted on 26 February 22 in Zoom Into ZambiaChildren's stories

Seven-year-old Witness

Witness is your typical seven-year-old little girl, spirited but sometimes shy, loves to play, has lots of friends and is a fan of the ‘sweet porridge’ she gets at her school in Zambia from Mary’s Meals.

What makes her even more special is her tenacity. She may have only one leg, but using her crutches, she zips around with exuberant energy. However, along with many of the 240 million disabled children around the world –1 in 10 childrenWitness faces a lifelong battle for equality.

By being given the opportunity to attend a good school, she is one of the lucky ones. A recent UNICEF report highlighted that a child with disabilities is 49% more likely not to attend school and 42% less likely to have basic reading and numeracy skills.

In Zambia in 2002, for example, free education was introduced for all children in the first six years of primary school, increasing the enrolment rate from 68% in 2000, then to 96% in 2006. Sadly, this increase was not reflected among children with disabilities. A 2006 survey of living conditions among persons with disabilities reported that, though eligible, around a quarter of all individuals with disabilities did not attend primary school.

The reasons are varied and many, from a lack of transport, accessible learning materials and facilities to a lack of teaching knowledge, poverty and sadly, stigma and discrimination.

For Witness and her parents, being happy in the knowledge that she will get a meal at school will hopefully mean that her education will go some way to ensuring she reaches her full potential and becomes the nurse she dreams of being.

Five-year-old Favour

“I am going to keep her. She is my child, given by God.”

These are the words of five-year-old Favour’s mother after she was given a stark ultimatum by her then husband who wanted them to abandon their daughter because of her disability.

Born with a severely disabled left leg, the little girl could not crawl or stand properly.

When she was two and a half when the decision was made that the only way to save the thigh was to amputate the leg.

Thankfully Favour’s mother ended her marriage and is now with a man who cares for Favour and is fully supportive.

Favour’s mother then visited Cheshire Homes – who help children with disabilities in Zambia and is supported by Mary’s Meals - to see if they could assist her daughter. They travelled there with the help of a teacher, who himself is in a wheelchair and is a former pupil.

Favour needs an artificial leg but there is a shortage of the material to make them. So, for now she has crutches, while they wait for a leg to be made for her.

Favour tells us “I like playing football and netball. I also like computer games, colouring and tracing.”