Eight year old David Chawinga hails from Mzgola; Group village Head (GVH) Chigwere, a village situated at about 116km from Mzuzu city.
It is one of the hard to reach areas due to its hilly, dusty and rocky topography in Nkhatabay district. In most cases, such areas are being neglected of development projects especially by NGOs. Against all odds, St John of God (SJOG), Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC) and Water and Environmental Sanitation Network (WES Network) secretariat challenged the status quo.
Elton and his family enjoying the fresh breeze of the vegetated compound
Just like most children in all parts of the world, David was born with a cerebral disorder that makes the brain fail to coordinate with his muscles called Cerebral Palsy (CP). According to Ella Mithi a nurse from SJOG, CP is a neurological disorder caused by damage of a developing brain and disrupts the brain’s ability to control movement and maintain posture. The disorder mostly appear in infant or during early childhood and permanently affects body movement and muscle coordination.
From birth, David not to be able to sit, stand or walk for the past seven years due to CP. His parents helped him with almost everything for his well being.
“Growing up, I have been laying David on my legs to poop and I would later collect the poop and throw them in the pit latrine. You can imagine how doing this for seven years and also for a child that by now as a parent you expect him to be independent to handle somethings himself” Narrated Nkhwachi Chawinga, David’s mother with the seemingly sympathetic tears dropping from her eyes.
In a project called Living No one Behind (LNOB) whose main objective is to ensure that everybody is take on board in WASH programming and also the vulnerable groups are reached ; David in one of the beneficiaries.
Responding to both WASH needs and those of the physically challenged, SJOG staff which is a composition of nurses and specialist facilitated the construction of a bambooed locally made walker at the Chawinga’s household that runs from the center of the house to the pit latrine. This was done to ensure that David can be holding the sides of the walker to make his way to the pit latrine which is also disability friendly to enable him to sit. David has been using the walker for almost an year.
According to David’s father, Elton Chawinga, the journey has been tough but worthy it. “We would hold David up just to put him in posture, then after some time he started to balance. When we saw that he was able to stand and balance, that’s when we started helping him take steps, eventually he started walking,” Narrated Chawinga who has also been helping carrying David around the home whenever need be.
“Much as his moves have not yet been perfected, for us seeing David walk alone through the walker to poop at the pit latrine and back is a great milestone . Thanks to SJOG for the interventions, locally made but has challenged disability. If not for the knowledge David would have been laying for the rest of his life just like others. I know I will still have to be carrying him at some point because he hasn’t yet mastered the art, but with the drastic improvement within a period of one year since we started walking him through the walker, the future is promising. David will walk!” Confidently finished Chawinga.
SJOG is the only partner in Malawi that is not implementing WASH but has integrated it in its programming. Speaking during an evaluation exercise, Chris Mhone who is the Programmes Manager said, “When we were entrusted with the project we were not so sure of what we were to do. So we just started off until things started to unfold along the way and today we are very glad to see such impact in our children.”
Talking with David’s parents, Mhone further advised the parents to now consider sending David to school to enhance both his mental and speech abilities.
Commenting on the same, Emma Mbalame who is the Director for Water Supply at the Ministry of Forestry and Natural resources said that as a Ministry SJOG’s intervention is an eye opener and David’s case is should be a model so that many other children going through the same can be helped.
SJOG in its a sub-grantee to WSSCC which is one of the WASH champions across the globe.
WSSCC’S Asayire Kapira appreciated the good job by SJOG saying the outcome has been beyond expectation. “Indeed, this is leaving no one behind” commended Kapira.