Disability Awareness Week

Today (1st June) was the launch of National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation Awareness Week which this year has the theme “the more we know and understand each other, the more inclusive our society can be” with the strap-line “remove the barrier”.

To launch this week an event was held at the Opuwo Stadium (grandiose title for a dirt field with some metal stands) which I along with my colleagues from the Ministry, various dignitaries and about 250 locals attended.

First, some facts…

  • According to the WHO there are about 600 million people living with some form of disability of which some 80% are children
  • This is particularly prevalent in the poverty stricken rural areas of the world where access to basic health care and rehabilitation services is difficult or impossible
  • Globally it is estimated that 98% of children who have disabilities do not attend school
  • The Namibia 2001 census reported that 85,567 Namibians (around 4%) live with disability
  • A large number of disabilities in children are a direct result of a disease or other condition that is widely immunised against or successfully treated in the developed world
  • In addition physical problems people with disabilities often suffer from social stigma as well as direct and indirect discrimination

Thankfully things are starting to change both in terms of prevention and awareness.

In June and July are a series of National Immunisation Days (NIDs) where all hands come to the pumps to perform outreach, even employing helicopters to reach the most remote villages, performing blanket immunisation and trying to increase the herd immunity.

This has led to a notable decrease (figures not to hand but they assure me it is notable) in preventable childhood disease.

Events like this week increase visibility of issues regarding disability and also include elements of disease screening and education sessions in the schools. This begins to, ever so slowly, address the stigma issues and encourage young students to enter health and rehabilitation fields we hope.

Enough With the Facts…

So today being the launch day with an 8.30 start I was in the office not long after seven. Though not specifically anything to do with me I share an office with the rehabilitation people for our region so have been watching the increasingly frantic arrangements take place at close quarters as well as helping with some of the typing (go technical skills).

Eventually I met up with another VSO vol I share the office with and we wandered down to the stadium to find one tent erected (snigger – sorry) and various activities going on.

More people trickled in past the half-eight start and then another even more massive tent turned up. We all pitched in setting it up, in the process getting covered in head-to-toe with dirt and oily stains (good job I wore my smart work gear then).

Eventually at about half-ten (pretty good by Namibian standards) the event started. I’d managed to snaffle a seat in the second-tier VIP tent so unfortunately all the entertainment was aimed the other way.

We were treated to various energetic dances and music from Sunshine a local performing arts group who excel at the shaky legs dance as well as the jumpy legs dance.

There were various speeches by dignitaries that were translated into Otjiherero causing some hilarity as the translator sometimes didn’t know the specific word for something and the audience would helpfully shout out.

In total – three dances, two singings of the national anthem, two prayers, four speeches and a drama (unfortunately in Otjiherero) which certainly tickled a rib or two with the crowd.

Refreshments were then served and I skived off to Ok and then back to the office figuring I had more than done my share in the morning (ahem) and I had some work to do.

A bonafide success in my opinion. Certainly much better than I would have managed to organise.

Some Pictures…

The Two Tents for Staff/VIPs

The Two Tents for Staff/VIPs

Dancer from the Sunshine Group

Dancer from the Sunshine Group

One of the Stands

One of the Stands

Kids in the Crowd

Kids in the Crowd

Himba Lady and Child in the Crowd

Himba Lady and Child in the Crowd

Everyone Pitching In

Everyone Pitching In

Erecting the Tent

Erecting the Tent

Emilia (NFPDN Co-Ordinator) Gives a Speech

Emilia (NFPDN Co-Ordinator) Gives a Speech

Crowd Scene

Crowd Scene

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