Righting the wrong
by Kusali Kubwalo
Pyeongchang, South Korea. 30 January 2012 - Malawi’s President Joyce Banda has called on all nations to develop child protection systems that ensure that there are comprehensive services for children with disabilities in the areas of health, education and psychosocial support.
In her key note address at the Global Development Summit on ending poverty and exclusion for people with intellectual disabilities in South Korea, President Banda noted that children with disabilities are often left out of the development agenda as there are no policies tailor-made for their needs.
“Children with disabilities are more likely to suffer from neglect, abuse and violence. Sadly, child protection systems rarely address the challenges that children with disabilities face. We must therefore do more to identify these children and tailor make programs that support their needs,” she said.
The president explained that children with disabilities are not only vulnerable to discrimination but to outright segregation as well and will most likely never go to school. She noted that while Malawi had made progress in passing the National Disabilities Act (2012) there is need to do more to ensure that the untapped population of people living with intellectual disabilities contributes to the national development.
President Banda told the summit that Malawi as a democratic society, has a moral obligation to ensure that each and every injustice, whether through acts of commission or mission, is met with deliberate and tangible action. She therefore urged the leaders at the forum to right the wrong by including people with intellectual disabilities in the implementation of programmes that affect them.
Responding to the address, Chairperson of the Special Olympics International, Dr. Tim Shriver described the remarks as “a ray of hope in the fight for inclusion for people with disabilities.”
The summit, which took place a day after the opening of the Special Winter Olympics for people with intellectual disabilities, seeks to examine and raise awareness on the unmet health and social needs of persons with intellectual disabilities. The summit also explored how to integrate actions and policies into national development agendas.
“I commit to working closely with Special Olympics, UN agencies and the development community in Africa in support of my wish to host an African Leaders Forum, in the Malawian capital of Lilongwe, to formally address the plight facing those with intellectual disabilities in an African context. There is so much that can, should, and must be done,” said President Banda.
Key issues coming out of the summit include the gaping absence of data on people with intellectual disabilities especially on sexual violence against girls and women with intellectual disabilities.
At least 2,300 athletes with intellectual disabilities from 110 countries are competing in Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, show-shoeing, figure skating, short-track speed skating, ice hockey and floor-ball.
Any intellectually disabled athlete over the age of eight can take part in the games.
Malawi is not competing in the Winter Olympics as it only participates in the Summer Olympics at the last of which in Greece 2011, Malawi won 3 gold, 1 bronze and 1 silver medals.