Unemployment Over 50%
Kamphata Village, Ngabu, Chikwawa District … It is a sad fact, but a true one that this young woman has never been able to go to school. Why? From birth she has been unable to walk, and in Malawi there is little or no opportunity for a disability this serious. Unable to move around, too big to be carried, with no way to go to school, the impossible of completing an education, and almost no chance for leading a normal life, this girl has been facing almost impossible odds.
As if these were not enough add a severe unemployment problem. The National Statistical Office (NSO), reported in 2014 a formal unemployment rate for young people at 21%. However, as though this were not bad enough, a recent African News story put the real figure for young people with low paying or no jobs at all at over 50%; this according to the International Labor Organization (ILO). For many young people there is no chance. When we put a face to this problem we meet 18-year-old Mphatso Oscar from Kamphata village in Ngabu area, Chikwawa District.
One of the Poorest Places
Not only do her immediate circumstances appear dire, the facts about her home district add to the problem. Chikwawa District straddles Highway M-1 south of Blantyre. One must travel 49 miles (80 kilometers) to reach this commercial center, and 190 miles (306 kilometers) to be in the capital city of Lilongwe. These places might just as well be at the other end of the earth. It is not hard to conclude Mphatso would never see them in her lifetime.
The Chikwawa District is one of the poorest areas, in the poorest nation on earth (GDP to population in 2016). It offers little sanitation, almost no clean water, very little healthcare, and few opportunities for an education or a job. What chance does she have against these kinds of odds? Until recently little or none.
Hope Arrives with Mobility
However, with the arrival of one of the mobility units in recent weeks everything changed for Mphatso and her family. Because she can now get around on her own, she can see a future that she only dreamed of before. Mphatso (her name means a gift) is the only girl in her family, and the pride and joy of her parents. They both say they will now enroll her in the nearby school that is only seven kilometers from their home.
Her smile is a vivid confirmation that Mphatso is ready to challenge the future, ready to launch out into the world; ready to leave a house she has been confined to for years. She is convinced there is a bright future waiting for her.