In April this year, the Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities reported to Parliament that their department had under-spent their 2010/11 disabilities programme budget of R8.6million by 66%. That is R6 million wasted while R2.9 million was spent on 10 employee salaries. While this ministry struggles with productivity, the 2.2 million-plus people with disabilities in South Africa fall further below the radar without support and the rest of society grows ignorant of their condition.
Were it not for organisations like the National Council for Persons with Physical Disabilities in South Africa (NCPPDSA), more than 250 000 people with disabilities and their families would suffer in silence. NCPPDSA is a non-profit organisation started in 1939 and today stands as an important umbrella body for 90 formal organisations working with issues of disability in all nine provinces.
The national footprint of the organisation is co-ordinated by only four committed staff members. The programmes, advocacy and research they conduct help put people with disabilities on the national agenda. The NCPPDSA for example co-ordinates the only national drive in South Africa that creates awareness of incontinence amongst people with disabilities around the country. Google four words together: ‘disability’, ‘south’, ‘africa’, and ‘incontinence’ and the link to NCPPDSA’s Nappy Run Campaign (nappyrun.org.za) appears at the top.
The NCPPDSA gets inundated with calls from mothers who need nappies. The cost of nappies is a burden for the poor caring for children with disabilities, particularly in rural areas, as children often wear nappies beyond adolescence. Essential to preventing a number of health ailments like rashes and pressure sores, nappies also help prevent stigmatization. Without them, children are not accepted at schools. Nappies provide dignity, freeing children and their families to enjoy public life.
The Nappy Run Campaign started last year in partnership with the National Association for Persons with Cerebral Palsy and the Association of Round Table of Southern Africa to get the country behind this issue. The campaign started an ongoing national audit of the thousands of informal centres that care for children with disabilities (which according to NCPPDSA is the norm not the exception). These centres are collated into an important database for authorities like government that need such research to understand the real extent of the need in South Africa.
During the month of October last year, 22 partners around the country from universities, retail businesses and churches to community media, television and South African celebrities did their part to collect 100 000 nappies. R17.5 million worth of nappies have been distributed to these people and organisations around the country. These nappies are received through approximately 150 nappy collection points around South Africa. 23 centres received 80 packs of nappies benefitting 920 children for two to three months – a small but powerful contribution.
Seventeen Nappy Runs were held in the Northern Cape, North West, Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Free State and the Western Cape. The entrance fee for the race is a pack of nappies for children of any age and entrants are requested to wear a nappy in any way they choose. These family events brought together different communities educating the public about physical disabilities in a fun way.
This year in October and November, the Nappy Run Campaign will be bigger and better. If the Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities wants to find something worthwhile to do with their budget, get behind The Nappy Run Campaign!
This project is a 2012 Impumelelo Award finalist. Winners will be announced at a gala ceremony in September. Visit impumelelo.org.za for more on ingenious ways South Africans solve public problems. Follow #TheGoodNewsJack by @ImpumeleloInnov
Image 1: The Nappy Run logo
Image 2: Children with disabilities in a care centre in Mfuleni