Cyclone recovery brings civil society and local government together to build inclusive society
With funding from the Norwegian agency for development cooperation (NORAD) and in partnership with Light for the World, UNICEF is supporting a community-based rehabilitation programme in Beira and other districts in cyclone- and conflict-affected areas.
Beira, Mozambique - Albertina is one of the children who benefitted from the UNICEF-supported community-based rehabilitation (CBR) programme. Albertina is a 13-year-old girl with multiple disabilities. She lives with her mother and siblings. Her father has left the family to find work. In an environment with no paved roads, with chickens and goose roaming about, Albertina’s friends take her to school in her UNICEF-provided wheelchair. Her mother is optimistic about Albertina’s future. “She will first finish school, then her future depends on her faith.”
The CBR worker who has worked with Albertina for many years tells that he and the family are supporting Albertina to develop and maintain her speech.
Albertina was first identified as a child with a disability in need of support services after cyclone Idai devastated the community in 2019. She had never been to school. The CBR worker explained the importance of education to the family. Albertina was also fitted with a wheelchair that is suitable for her size and adapted to the terrain she moves in. With guidance from the CBR worker, Albertina increased her skills to communicate and can today use the toilet by herself and play with her friends. Her mother is also part of a group of parents with children with disabilities to share experiences, challenges, and achievements.
Another beneficiary of the CBR programme is Doris. We met him in his home before he was heading to school and sat to talk together under a mango tree.
I was able to walk before but I woke up one day and my legs would not carry me anymore. I was not sick, I don’t know what happened. I didn’t have any way to go to school and I had to drop out. Then, I was enrolled in the CBR programme and received a wheelchair so I could go back to school.
Today Doris is 22 and dreams of working with either music or technology. His side hustle is repairing cellphones and TVs, though the customer base is small in his village.
Many kilometers away stands Beira treatment and rehabilitation center. Some of the hospital buildings have not been renovated after the cyclone. Children and adults with disabilities come to the center for a range of services like speech therapy and psychological support. The hospital staff also show us around in a room with children sitting and drawing around a table.
“This is a room for psychosocial support with toys and play materials you have given us,” says Ana Tambo, the Director of the hospital. “Many of the services provided here, like this room, are only possible with support from UNICEF and Light for the World.”
The hospital has around 50-60 patients a day. The problem is we have statistics on the children who come, but we know there are many who do not come. There is a lot of stigma around disability in the community. Even doctors with children with autism do not talk about the issue.
The fact that stigma leads many parents to hide their children with disabilities is why the hospital invests in outreach in the community when their capacity allows. One speech therapist tells that when he went to the community, he met so many children who needed his support. Albertina was one of the children identified through outreach.
The CBR workers fill some of the capacity gaps in the hospital. 25 CBR workers service around 1,300 persons with disabilities. Albertina’s CBR worker visits twice a week. A group of CBR workers greets us with a dance and song in their local office.
We believe in empowering persons with disabilities to live full lives.
UNICEF Mozambique continues to work with partners like Light for the World and the Mozambican Government to establish a nationwide early screening system through developing tools and a training package. For children like Albertina and Doris, their identification led to them receiving necessary services and facilitating their inclusion in the community. With early screening and intervention, children will receive the services they need so they can achieve their full potential. UNICEF Mozambique also works with the government to strengthen sustainable access to health care services at the community level.