President Lazarus Chakwera yesterday launched the 2023 Malawi Council for the Handicapped (Macoha) Flag Week at Kamuzu Palace in Lilongwe with a commitment to promote inclusion and rights of persons with disabilities in national development.
In his address, the President urged Malawians to consider the personhood in persons with disabilities and not their appearance so that their chances and opportunities of livelihood are not compromised by their disability.
He said: “What I am trying to emphasise is inclusion of all people at any level in national issues.
“As a nation, we should begin seeing positive contributions one can make in development, decision-making and problem solving. That is when we can call ourselves an inclusive nation.”
The Macoha Flag Week is commemorated annually to raise awareness on issues of persons with disabilities and support them.
This year, the week is being commemorated under the theme: ‘Socio-Economic Empowerment for Persons with Disabilities Affected by Tropical Cyclone Freddy: Means for Recovery after Disaster’.
Proceeds from the cause will be used for recovery efforts targeting individuals with disabilities impacted by Tropical Cyclone Freddy which caused a lot of infrastructural damage and loss of life and livelihoods in March this year.
During the opening ceremony, Chakwera bought the first flag at K2 million and urged Malawians to participate in the fundraising activities and render any support which can help speed up the cause.
Macoha executive director George Chiusiwa said people with disabilities are not adequately supported in times of disasters and that their programmes are not sufficiently funded, leading to operational challenges which further marginalises them.
He said one of the challenges the council is facing is low coverage of the community-based inclusive development (CBID) programme, which is the main approach of achieving disability mainstreaming but is implemented in only 14 of the country’s 28 districts.
“Other challenges are inadequate vehicles and motorcycles for both administrative and operational needs, lack of a cotton roving machine for Bangwe Factory which is the largest employer of persons with disabilities and low salaries for its staff,” said Chiusiwa.
He added that Macoha’s training centres in Lilongwe and Magomero in Chiradzulu have not been fully-operational for the past 10 years due to financial hardships and this has denied many persons with disabilities a chance to acquire vocational skills.
In her remarks, Minister of Gender, Community and Social Welfare Jean Sendeza said this year’s commemoration will focus on accessibility of infrastructure, education and skills development, economic inclusion through financial support and health care.
The 2018 population census indicates that there are 1 734 250 persons with disabilities representing 11.6 percent of the total population aged five years and above and out of them, 134 636 are persons with albinism.