The following statements were made in an informal survey conducted in Lusaka, Zambia by CLASP International about people with disabilities (the following statements do not reflect the mindset of all Zambians):
Since CLASP International’s first trip to Zambia, story after story has been heard about individuals being hidden under beds, used for sacrificial purposes, and neglected. These stories are not myths; they are the sad reality for countless individuals. But how many?
In Africa, an estimated 60-80 million people are living with disabilities today, or roughly 10-20% of the population. (Disabled World)
As one can imagine, in a country where a lack of awareness means that individuals with disabilities are stigmatized and seen as curses to society, reliable disability statistics and compiled public information are hard to come by. Many times, the few statistics that are presented are incomplete and reflect conflicting figures. For instance, the Zambian 2010 census reported 251,427 persons with disabilities, 66,043 of which are children. However, the Zambian Ministry of Education reported 198,394 children were enrolled in school with special learning needs.
The World Health Organization estimates, about 2 million women and men in Zambia, or 15% of the population, have a disability. (ILO)
It is even more difficult to find a credible statistic for Zambians with communication-specific disabilities, but taking a look at other country-wide studies can help. 38 – 49% of people with disabilities in Uganda and Zimbabwe have communication difficulties (2002, Hartley and Wirz) and 25% of children in Ghana (2003, Biritwum, Devres, Ofosu-Amaah, Marfo, & Essah, cited by Simeonsson). CLASP has seen firsthand that many children who are disabled do not attend school as their parents either cannot afford the school fee, or the children are not thought to be worth the fee. Some of these children present with a swallowing or feeding disorder and often face the fate of slowly wasting away, never to be documented or reported.
CLASP International currently treats 220 patients for communication and swallowing disorders. More children are seen with every trip.