You are here

Lusaka, Zambia – Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in Zambia have called for more engagement and better access to sexual and reproductive health services.

Speaking at a stakeholder dialogue meeting held to commence the process of formulating national commitments for the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, Mr. Peter Bwale, a representative of the visually impaired community and Executive Director at the New Foundation for the Blind in Zambia, observed that like everyone else, persons with disabilities had sexual and reproductive health needs.

“Persons with disabilities have the same sexual and reproductive health needs as any other person, yet they often face barriers to information and services regarding sexual and reproductive health,” said Mr. Bwale, whose role includes assisting and counselling people who have lost their sight to live normal and fulfilled lives. “Even when the services are available, remaining unaware of their rights to health services further exposes them to increased vulnerability,” he added.

The dialogue, which brought together various stakeholders including the Government of Zambia, cooperating partners, UN agencies, youths, civil society, private sector, academia and media, presented a platform for persons with disabilities to interact with representatives from all sectors to ensure the protection of their human rights and build an inclusive society.

In a speech delivered by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Development Planning, the Minister of National Development Planning Hon. Mr. Alexander Chiteme MP, said Zambia is on track to achieve the 1994 ICPD commitments, but that much remains to be done to empower those who are not yet able to enjoy their rights and whose choices are still constrained, in particular marginalized populations.

“In order to address these challenges and ensure that no one is left behind as Zambia continues to strive to attain middle income status by 2030, my Government has prioritized the implementation of programmes that address development inequalities and other challenges, through the five pillars of the 7th National Development Plan,” he said.

Despite the progress made by Zambia, many persons with disabilities are yet to fully enjoy reproductive health choices. Key barriers faced include limited physical access, transportation and or proximity to health facilities, and within health facilities, lack of ramps and adapted examination tables. Lack of user-friendly health information, for example in braille, large print, and sign language interpreters is also a key barrier faced by persons with disabilities.

“We need our voices and ideas to be heard and implemented.Otherwise our rights to health will never be realized,” Mr. Keshi Chisambi, Director at the Zambia Library, Cultural and Skills Centre for the Visually Impaired

“We need our voices and ideas to be heard and implemented. Otherwise our rights to health will never be realized,” said Mr Keshi Chisambi, Director at the Zambia Library, Cultural and  Skills Centre for the Visually Impaired.

Speaking during the meeting, the UN Zambia Resident Coordinator Dr Coumba Mar Gadio underscored the critical need to ensure no one is left behind in Zambia’s quest for Sustainable Development. "Carrying forward the vision of the ICPD will unlock opportunities for those left behind and help pave the way for sustainable, equitable and inclusive development for all," Dr Mar Gadio said.

Also speaking at the dialogue, UNFPA Zambia Representative Ms. Gift Malunga emphasised the critical need for collective efforts to fulfil the promise of ICPD for those who are left out and left behind. “It is time to act now and urgently, to ensure that every individual, especially those left furthest behind, are able to exercise their rights. The cost of inaction is simply too high” Ms. Malunga said.

Representing health cooperating partners in Zambia, DFID Deputy Head of Office Mr. William Eckersley and SIDA Counsellor – Health Ms Ulrika Hertel, commended Zambia for the significant strides made in reducing development inequalities, and reaffirmed sustained partnerships with the Government and people of Zambia towards universal access to health, and towards achieving Sustainable Development.

"The UK Government is committed to supporting Zambia in harnessing its Demographic Dividend. The Programme of Action of the ICPD is key in enabling Zambia to achieve this", said Mr. Eckersley.

“With the ICPD, we shifted the focus from human population to human rights. This is critical for ensuring health and wellbeing for all and for achieving SDGs", said Ms Hertel.