By Andrew Bishop Mkandawire

A total 24 youth with disabilities under Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM), WISH2ACTION project which provides Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) services to youth, women, and men in hard-to-reach areas, have received push tricycles and a pair of crutches through Malawi Council for the Handicap (MACOHA) and Church of Christ. This initiative is resultant of coordinated collaboration between FPAM and disability organizations in Kasungu which aimed at reaching people with disabilities with SRHR comprehensive information and integrated services from January to October 2023

The disability aids that were provided by the Church of Christ Action for Progress project through MACOHA, aimed at complementing FPAM’s advocacy for social inclusion in the access of health services including SRHR among people of reproductive age. This initiative, which initially faced resistance due to myths and misconceptions that prohibit people with disabilities from accessing family planning services, has seen a rise in community acceptance regarding health service provision towards people with disabilities.

Bertha Banda, 22, from Kaswaya village T/A Wimbe, with paraplegia disability, expressed her joy that “It was until FPAM started engaging me in 2022 in health education social groups, it’s when I learnt that I could also access health information.” Banda added that “I was not able to move to any place in my community due to mobility challenges. Now, mum and sister can focus on other issues since I have the tricycle to take me to places. As I speak, I draw water for my family, visit my friends and get to the health facility to access family planning services.”

Bertha Banda one of the beneficiaries of the donation with her tricycle at Chamama, Kasungu.

Another beneficiary, Newton Mbeye, 42, a FPAM community volunteer who has been linking health workers and youth with disabilities expressed his happiness when he received a pair of new silver metal crutches. “One thing I have liked about the WISH2ACTION project is its advocacy to promote social inclusion. I can now visit youth with confidence because my anchorage is renewed.”

The 21-year-old youth mobiliser from Chimpango village T/A Wimbe, born with Hydrocephalus which leads to paralysis of the lower limbs explained that she is now able to get to Mtunthama health center for health services. “I’m now able to interact with friends, attend church services, and go to the market and video shows,” she said.

Chiefs who fully supported the WISH2ACTION project by organizing mobile clinics have also embraced social inclusion. Group Village Headman (GVH) Msola said “People in my community now understand the importance of linking people with disabilities and health workers. And through edu​tainment and sports, youth including those with disabilities patronized youth targeted outreaches.”

GHV Msola shared that his community links people with disabilities with service delivery points.

The Family Planning coordinator for Kasungu district hospital Alufeyo Chirwa explained that “It was only the WISH2ACTION project that indeed targeted the youth with sexual reproductive health and rights services regardless of disabilities.“ Supporting Chirwa’s insights, the WISH2ACTION project program manager Gerald Maulidi echoed that “One of the aims for the project was to ​ strengthen district collaboration among disability organizations and service delivery points to reach more people with disabilities with family planning services.”

The MACOHA district manager for Kasungu, Wisdom Mseteka said “From July to September 2023, we distributed a total of 93 tricycles and 12 pairs of crutches. Of these, 24 tricycles and a pair of crutches have been given to FPAM youth leaders with disabilities to support them with continued community mobilization of people to access SRHR services.”

Family Planning Association of Malawi (FPAM) rolled out WISH2ACTION project in 2020 and the project that has reached more than 400 people with disabilities with contraception information and services, is closing in October 2023.

The WISH2ATION Project touched the ground in March 2019 and will close in October 2023. Through cluster model, the project was being implemented in Kasungu and Lilongwe districts and aimed at reaching girls and women, among men and boys in hard-to-reach areas with SRHR comprehensive information and integrated services through mobile clinics, static clinics, and community distribution.