In Zambia, the Southern Africa Federation of the Disabled (SAFOD) works with its national affiliate, the Zambia Federation of Disability Organisations (ZAFOD). ZAFOD is a legally constituted national umbrella organization for disability organizations in Zambia and has a long history of work in the legal reform and human rights sector.
With a membership of 12 organisations, the primary goal of the organisation is to advocate for the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.
Zambia signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) on 9 May 2008 and ratified it on 1 February 2010.
Based on data from the 2010 Census of Population and Housing, the total population of Zambia, at 13,046,508. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 2 million women and men in Zambia, or 15 per cent of the population have a disability. Furthermore, a higher percentage of persons living with disabilities include persons with hearing and visual disabilities and most of these live in rural areas where access to basic services is limited.
The most prevalent forms of disability in Zambia include:
- Visual impairment;
- Hearing impairment;
- Physical impairment;
- Communication impairment; and
- Intellectual impairment.
With regards to the situation of assistive technology, it is pertinent to state that that ZAFOD is one of the SAFOD's ten national affiliates that have been actively involved in the Assistive Technology Information Mapping Project (AT-Info-Map), a project of SAFOD, AfriNEAD, University of Washington, and Dimagi which started in March 2016. Part of the project has been to raise awareness of the AT in the ten countries where SAFOD works, and the activities has involved understanding the situation of AT in Zambia as follows:
- Disabled Peoples Organizations (DPOs) affiliated to ZAFOD procure AT from local suppliers such as Beitcure, Apters, ZNAHI, University Teaching Hospital (Orthopaedics and Eye clinic), Disacare, Lumina Hear and Care, Italian Hospital, Library for the blind. Some are procured abroad and some from Donations both local and international.
- DPOs do not have the expertise to repair broken IT and refer to AT specialists
- The policy environment for AT policies, is not conducive as Zambia has no policy on assistive technology although other related tom for example, disability directly impact the assistive technology sector.
- The Supply Chain is not very reliable as the suppliers do not have the AT readily available at all times and orders have to be made hence deliveries take very long. Some of the AT is imported from overseas.
- Most ATs in Zambia are small and medium scale. There are not many big ones. The small and medium suppliers do not have all the types of AT that are needed by Persons of different Disability categories.
- DPOs face the following barriers; supply chain and cost related barriers – The AT is too expensive for most persons with disabilities.
- Policies need to change or be developed with regards to AT, Supply Chain needs to improve and Social attitudes, all major hospitals need to stock assistive technologies.
- Priority area of interventions by DPOs: The Disability Policy indicates that government will establish two facilities to produce assistive devices. This is yet to be implemented though.Need more Interventions
The following are some of the recommendations from various stakeholders to address the challenges associated with assistive technology in Zambia:
- Training of Technicians to produce more Aids locally
- Capacity Building of Government line ministries in the provision of AT
- Lobbying for duty free AT for imported ones
- Lobbying for affordable and reliable AT
- AT to be made available in all districts, not only in Lusaka the capital city
- Training of local DPOs in the production of quality AT/assembling AT.