Parents of children with Down Syndrome genetic disorder have made an impassioned plea to the public to refrain from discriminating against their children.
They also called on government to frequently host awareness campaigns to educate people about the condition.
This emerged when the Down Syndrome Association of the Western Cape (DSAWC) held an awareness campaign at Khayelitsha Special School, on Thursday February 2, to mark Down Syndrome Awareness Month.
The association says the condition is a genetic disorder, not a disease as some people believe. It said children with the condition were born with an abnormal cell division.
Lungiswa Mhlayimpi, social worker for the association told Vukani that doctors were able to diagnose the babies with the condition during pregnancy. She said while there was no cure for it, children living with the condition benefit if they receive appropriate educational and vocational services in their lives.
She said they looked “slightly different” from other people, usually with slanted eyes while others often protrude their tongues.
The disorder often causes delay in their intellectual and physical development.
Ms Mhlayimpi said most people, particularly in the townships, were still clueless about it.
The association has vowed to embark on a rigorous awareness campaign across the province throughout the month to highlight Down Syndrome.
Ms Mhlayimpi said the lack of educational programmes was a major problem and that people were not aware of the challenges faced by people living with the disorder.
She said the aim was to improve the quality of life for those living with the condition, while advocating for their rights. She said a support structure was provided to the families through education, intervention and information regarding medical aspects.
“We want to make noise about Down Syndrome and educate people about it. We have committed ourselves to fighting any senseless abuse faced by these vulnerable members of our community. We hope that the government will also initiate an awareness campaign about it,” she said.
Nombeko Zaku, whose daughter lives with the condition, said she hadn’t heard about the disorder until doctors informed her that her daughter had been diagnosed with it three weeks after birth.
Puzzled and battling to come to terms with the news, she said the only thing on her mind was that her baby would die soon.
She added that she felt like the world was collapsing on top of her as she had still been struggling to come to terms with the death of her husband.
Difficult as it maybe, she made a vow that she would never forsake her daughter.
“My daughter now is 14 years and is like any other child. People would ask me many questions as to why my child was different from the others and that made angry. But now I have more information about it and I’m no longer angry,” she said.