Community-based rehabilitation of children with disabilities a wonderful solution in Cabo Delgado

In Metuge, where it is very hard to get specialized medical services close to home, community-based rehabilitation of children with disabilities is a wonderful solution.

Meri Poghosyan
community-based rehabilitation of children with disabilities is a wonderful solution
UNICEF Mozambique/2021/Meri Poghosyan
10 December 2021

Metuge, Cabo Delgado - When 5-year old Rita walked into the front yard of her home in Metuge, Cabo Delgado, on a hot summer day,  her hair braided in the local fashion, her glance alert exploring the visitors, I didn’t think she was the girl with a disability that we had come to visit. Disability is not always visible, yet we often subconsciously look for visible signs which often makes it difficult to identify and support children whose disability is not immediately noticeable. She looked at me for a moment, her face broke into a sunny smile and she gave me a thumbs up. Apparently, I had somehow gained her approval. Then she said: “naish!”, her own pronunciation of the word ‘nice’ she had probably heard other foreigners say.

I was in Metuge with Filomena, a staff member of Cabo Delgado-based NGO ADEL that is part of the community-based rehabilitation programme for persons with disabilities, launched by NGO Light for the World. As we settled down, Filomena emptied a box of Lego blocks on the floor and began playing with Rita to help improve her motor skills development. After quickly building her first rectangular wall, Rita struggled with some of the shapes that required more dexterity and force in fingers, but she eventually managed with the help of Filomena and was proud of her achievement.

Her creative grandfather used local materials to build a simple but innovative walker that helped her move more easily outside.

Her creative grandfather used local materials to build a simple but innovative walker that helped her move more easily outside.

Meri Poghosyan

The next activity was walking. While Rita manages to walk short distances, it is difficult for her to maintain balance. She also doesn’t have a lot of strength in the legs to kick a ball easily. Her creative grandfather used local materials to build a simple but innovative walker that helped her move more easily outside. Light for the World installed wooden bars to help her to do simple rehabilitation therapy right in her own backyard. At first, Rita moved holding on to the bars and then proceeded to the exercise with the ball to help her improve her grasp and eye-motor coordination, as well as strengthen her legs and stability. She was clearly enjoying her rehabilitation session. The last activity Filomena set up was group play with Rita’s siblings and cousins using a football, a rare toy in the village. This activity is an excellent way to promote inclusion, as other children see Rita as a playmate at the same time as understanding that she needs to be supported by often passing the ball to her. This helps children to develop compassion and social-emotional intelligence, and value diversity.

In Metuge, where it is very hard to get specialized medical services close to home, community-based rehabilitation of children with disabilities is a wonderful solution.

Meri Poghosyan
Meri Poghosyan

In Metuge, where it is very hard to get specialized medical services close to home, community-based rehabilitation of children with disabilities is a wonderful solution. It allows therapists like Filomena to work with children, their families, and the community, which helps promote social and behavioral change. Such services have a life-transforming effect, as without early intervention even light disabilities can become severe and the lack of opportunity can hinder participation in school, community, and other activities. Rita will turn 6 next year, and will hopefully be in school and receive a proper education. I could see in her a strong determination and grit, which she needs to achieve results and follow her dreams despite the challenges she will face in life.   

There are thousands of children like Rita in Cabo Delgado who need similar opportunities. We thank the Government of Norway for the invaluable contribution to disability inclusion and we encourage other donors will also join this important initiative.