Lackson Chipato vows to defeat blindness in Zambia

Lackson Chipato vows to defeat blindness in Zambia

By Ashton Kelly and Henry Chunza

Sight is basically the most important sense organ which is used to receive external information, and most of the scientists estimate that out of the five main sense organs, sight or eyes receive 80% of the information coming in from outside.

As it may be known, the information received through the different sense organs is later used to make important decisions, for instance, an individual decides what time to run away and how to run after seeing some danger.

To this effect, individuals with visual impairments clearly lose out on a lot of information, and as a result of the loss under review, persons with visual impairments suffer a number of survival difficulties, which can be overcome through the use Braille, to read and write information.

Unfortunately, Braille can only be read by a few individuals, meaning, and persons with Visual  Impairments, cannot easily compete with the rest of their peers at the same footing family, school,  or indeed community.

These implicit gaps experienced by the visually impaired cannot easily be appreciated by the general populous. On the other hand, such individuals need special bridges for them to enjoy equal life with the rest of their peers.

It is these teething burdens that prompted birth of Defeating Blindness in Zambia (DBIZ), to practically reduce the noted gaps and difficulties experienced by persons with visual impairments countrywide.

Defeating Blindness in Zambia (DBIZ) was formed in 1975 by a British male citizen Mubarak Adam married to a Zambian and a Zambian visually impaired man called Lackson Chipato.

From inception in 1975, DBIZ board members agreed to provide support to individuals and groups with visual impairments through academic, economic and social independence.

Zambia is a land-locked country and it covers 753,000 KM squared, a vast land, the country is host to 13.5 million people, (Central Statistics Office of Zambia [CSO] 2010). CSO has since become the Zambia Statistical Agency (ZSA).

Former National Development Planning Minister Alexander Chiteme unveiled the Zambia Statistics Agency (ZamStats) Board and officially received over 2000 bicycles worth $268,471 towards the Census undertaking.

ZamStats under the 2018 Statistics Act, became operational on 6th September 2019 and comprises Mr. Charles Mpundu Chairperson, and Board Members as Dr. Jeremiah Banda, Ms Bwalya Salamu, Mr. Isaac Muhanga, Mrs. Patricia Mulenga, Dr. Chitalu Chiliba, Mr. William Mayaka, Mrs Elizerbeth Musukwa, and Mr. Charles Banda,

The 2021 Census of Population and Housing is slated for November 2021, with United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Representative Gift Malunga commending government’s commitment to improving the national statistical system.

According to the Human Development Index {HDI} (2013) Zambia was rated to be at 150 out of 160 in the ranking of the standard of living.

This statistic vividly shows that Zambia is one of the poorest countries among sampled nations. To vindicate the HDI by the United Nations Development Programme, the CSO (2011) indicated that 68% of Zambians were living in abject poverty.

 In fact, according to the world ranking on poverty levels, 85% of the people in Zambia live on one dollar per day (K30), a saddening picture, and it is common knowledge that people  with disabilities in the world struggle more than able bodied peers.

The World Bank (2012) categorically indicated that the most under privileged individuals were people with disabilities, an assertion backed by the Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (2006), which reported that 93% of the total population of Persons with Disabilities in Zambia live in abject poverty.

“The CSO (2011) estimated that 68% culminating in 9,180,000 people of Zambia live in abject poverty. According to the World Health Organization (WBO), 10% of any population were people with disabilities. In this case, 93% poorest individuals with disabilities constitute 1,310,000 of the persons with disabilities living in abject poverty. A further 14.2% of the population in poverty are people with disabilities. Though, fewer, People with are disabilities have access to a lower Gross Domestic Product. It is not possible to develop a nation without considering the minority,” laments DBIZ director, Mr. Chipato.

In Zambia, there are only about six well established schools intended to educate persons with visual impairments, though very distant from the homes of parents, extremely poor to financially support their children at school.

The Zambia Agency for Persons with Disabilities (2009) estimated say 20% of the persons with disabilities complete their twelfth grade, many drop-out of school while of those who complete their school certificates, only about 5% are  accepted on the job market.

The majority of persons with visual impairments in formal employment, are few with those asking for alms in the streets being a majority.

Chipato says the DBIZ vision is to see a society free of attitudinal, academic and physical barriers towards individuals with its core mission statement being to promote an independent living among persons with visual impairment.

As a disability Service platform, aim is to ‘Promote total or partial independence of visually impaired persons through the interventions that may lead to less interdependence on able bodied persons

DBIZ 10-point objectives are to; identify and impart self-help skills in Gardening, curving, shoe mending, sowing and knitting, cooking and cleaning brush making as Activities for Daily Living (ADL), identify talent in music, sports, etc. among persons with visual impairment and act as an agency to provide facilities pertaining to the promotion of such talent to such persons in Zambia.

Advocating for the provision of facilities and materials to accessible information and treatment to the persons with visual impairment affected and or infected by HIV and AIDS, COVID19 or future health concerns, identify innovative ideas in entrepreneurship, protect visually impaired girls and women throw awareness and sensitization, identify bodies locally and abroad that can sponsor exceptionally talented visually impaired persons, promote and support education, through constructing a national resource centre, carry out awareness programmes through engaging the stakeholders, carry out visually impaired related projects promoting the wellbeing of persons with visual impairment in Zambia and affiliate to organizations for and of persons with disabilities for effective delivery to its beneficiaries.

In the year 1998, Mubarak’s wife and her parents became physically disabled, thus overwhelmed by these disability experiences, he resigned from work as a supervisor in British Nuclear Fields and with a few people in United Kingdom (UK) resolved fight disability through DBIZ establishment.

Chipato a visually impaired specialist in special education and as an administrator born with sight age of 6 when a measles ailment pushed him to become visually impaired, overcame adversity as ,a UK DBIZ board was formed in 2012, and a year later, a Zambian board was registered by the Patents and Companies Registration Agency (PACRA) on Thursday 4th of July, 2013.

The British board had the responsibility of monitoring, fundraising, planning and encouraging the Zambian board, whose task is to  implement, monitor, design programmes, evaluate and advise on how to proceed.

“DBIZ has made several efforts towards lifting the welfare of people  with visual impairments in Zambia estimated  at 3.1 per cent of the Zambian Population. Mr. Adams died in 2015 after an illness of complication in the chest. After his death, the coordination of the U.K. board and the Zambian board failed to continue. Zambian board which has continued with the operations of Defeating Blindness in Zambia,” explained Chipato.

In a bid to resuscitate operations, eight (8) board members board led by director Chipato, from the Zambia Institute of Special Education, Coordinator of Finance and Administration, Peter Chibesa Bwale, from Office Of The President, Cabinet Office, Coordinator of Technical Services, Mannex Ngwila, from the Chipata College Of Education, Coordinator of Projects, Frank Kabwe from Choma’s St. Mulumba Special School, Coordinator of Gender Affairs, Jane Nyirenda, from the National Public and Prosecution Authority, Coordinator Of Publicity and Information Affairs, Derrick Sinjela, from the Rainbow Newspaper Zambia Limited, Coordinator of Education, Sports and Youth Affairs, Jeremiah Phiri of Chongwe’s Silvarest Secondary School.

Among its strategic plan and activities, DBIZ proposes a hexagon (six angled) approach to resolving the problem of visual impairment and poverty targeted at improving performance of Magwero school, Sefula  Basic, Lions Basic, Mporokoso, St Mulumba, Malaikha School PVT, Sefula Secondary, Kawambwa Secondary, Mumbwa  Secondary Munali  Secondary, Bauleni Street Kids Centre,

The six DBIZ hexagon angles are; an individual with visual impairment and his family, institutions of learning for blind children, the out of school blind individuals, preventive and curative approach to blindness, a policy advocacy and government involvement and community transformation.

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