The people of the rural Kabras Division in western Kenya are mostly subsistence
farmers, with over 50% living below the poverty line. Some sell extra
produce to get cash; a few run small shops. Those with enough land grow
sugar cane as a cash crop. Although primary school was declared free in
2003, some children can’t attend because parents can’t afford
uniforms; most secondaries are boarding schools and paying school fees
is a constant struggle. Health facilities are few and inadequate; many
parents can’t afford to take children for treatment or buy medicine.
Poor nutrition increases vulnerability to disease. There is one paved
road running through the Kabras division of which Malava is the center;
other roads can be impassable in rainy seasons, and some places can be
reached only by paths. The common mode of public transport is the bicycle
taxi; one balances on a carrier seat over the rear wheel. Where possible,
vans and made-over pick-ups are used. Though attitudes are beginning to
change, some disabled children are still hidden. The disability may be
seen as a punishment for a parent’s sin or as a curse by an enemy,
an ancestor or evil spirit. Parents who don’t reject the child are
often unaware that anything can be done to help, or they can’t pay.
Most disabled children do not attend school.
a survey of the 6 locations in Kabras Division, Kakamega District, Western
Province, Kenya in 2003, an area of about 25x25 kilometres (15x15 miles),
over 600 disabled children were found. That not all were discovered is
indicated by the fact that many children now in our programme were not
among them. Disabilities include birth deformity; epilepsy; vision, hearing
and speech impairment; mental retardation; and impairment of body movement.
Over 16% are multihandicapped. The programme’s target area includes
South Kabras, East Kabras, and Shirugu locations, in which were found
335 of these children, but children from outside this area are also assisted.