Watson Mchiena in his maize field
Watson Mchiena in his maize field

Ntchisi, Malawi … “Recently I visited him. He was busy in the maize field, harvesting his maize (corn) for his family.” Wilson Tembo is referring to Mr. Watson Mchiena, a physically challenged father of seven and grandfather of two. Watson has suffered a physical problem with his right lower leg his whole life, and as a result he cannot walk. Although he badly needed a mobility devise it was out of the question. He could never afford one.

After the visit from Action for Progress, it was determined he qualified for a hand-propelled mobility unit. It was easy to understand his mindset. He was not looking for “fruit”, he was looking for “seeds”. He wanted to be independent and successful on his own. He believes in working and reports, “I don’t go to bed hungry. I work with my hands.”

“On the day of our visit, we found him in the maize field harvesting a bumper crop of maize. While so many continue to suffer from famine Mr. Watson has used his unit and his determination to bring a successful year to his family.”

Looking to the Future

Mr. Watson is an accomplished and skilled tailor. He is looking for the opportunity to start a tailoring business. He already has a sewing machine. He only needs the funds with which to buy the materials with which to start his dream. 

Tembo concludes, “In the case of Mr. Watson, it is confirmed that disability is directly linked to poverty when key support is absent. With the provision of a mobility unit, his life has changed for the better.”

Problem Defined

Persons with disabilities (are) widely defined as having difficulties or problems in one or all of the following areas; seeing, hearing, walking/climbing, speaking, intellectual, self-care, and other difficulties. (2018 Malawi Population and Housing Census, May 2019). In 2018, 10.4 percent of the population aged 5 years and older had at least one type of disability, with 10 percent males and 11 percent females. Out of 1,556,670 persons with at least one type difficulty, 27 percent had difficulty walking/climbing.

As a health issue, disability is also a development issue, because of its link to poverty: disability will increase the risk of poverty, and poverty increases the risk of disability. According to WHO, a growing body of empirical evidence indicates people with disabilities, and their families, are more likely to experience economic and social disadvantage than those without a disability.

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