Two disabled orphan children in Swaziland have been hidden from the world after a government official told their family it would harm the image of the kingdom if people knew of their condition.
The Times of Swaziland, the only independent daily newspaper in the kingdom, reported on Monday (11July 2016) that the two children might be suffering from polio.
The newspaper reported, ‘Their family was allegedly given strict instructions not to ever show the children to anyone or even discuss their condition in public.
‘It has been alleged by the head of the family where the two children stay that officials from certain government offices barred and gave strict instructions not to show the children to anyone because making their condition known would place the country in bad light.’
The newspaper added, ‘The children suffer from a rare disability and some of those who know about the children suspect they suffer from polio.’
The two children believed to be aged 16 and eight stay at LaMgabhi, Etiyeni. The Times reported they had never walked since they were born and had shrunk muscles and could only crawl. They both cannot talk.
The newspaper reported, ‘The head of the family, Edward Hlophe, who is a step grandfather of the children, alleged that he got an instruction from some government officials not to expose the children to the public as such could paint a bad image of the country with the United Nations.’
It added, ‘In an interview, Hlophe, confirmed that some government officials warned them against revealing the children to the public. Hlophe said when the officials arrived at the homestead to check on the children, they took some pictures of them from their back and warned the family against allowing anyone else to do so.’
The abandonment of the children is one of many examples of poor treatment of people with disabilities in Swaziland.
A report published by SINTEF Technology and Society, Global Health and Welfare in 2011 that studied living conditions among people with disabilities in Swaziland, found, ‘There is a general belief that those who have a disability are bewitched or inflicted by bad spirits.
‘Many believe that being around people with disabilities can bring bad luck. As a result, many people with disabilities are hidden in their homesteads and are not given an opportunity to participate and contribute to society.’
The report was the result of an extensive study in the kingdom in 2009 and 2010.
It also found that people with disabilities had been abandoned by the Swazi Government. The report stated, ‘The absence of any comprehensive laws and policies to address people with disabilities’ access to equal opportunities reflect a lack of political will and a failure to recognize disability as a human right issue contributes to the devaluing and dehumanising of people with disabilities.
‘People with disabilities have the same rights as able-bodied people and they are entitled to enjoy all citizenry rights.’
DISABLED PEOPLE ‘TREATED LIKE ANIMALS’