People with hearing challenges in Kajiado still face stigma

World Hearing Day

Locals in a procession to mark World Hearing Day in Magadi town, Kajiado County on March 3, 2024.

Photo credit: Stanley Ngotho | Nation Media Group

Societal misconceptions and stigmatisation of people with hearing challenges remain a major setback in Kajiado County.

During the World Hearing Day celebrations on Sunday at Magadi Tata Chemicals Hall under the World Health Organization theme "Changing mindsets: Let's make ear and hearing care a reality for all", dozens of people with various disabilities braved the scorching sun in solidarity with their colleagues suffering from hearing problems.

According to the 2022 data from the Kajiado County government, out of 2,000 people living with disabilities, 10 per cent were people with various hearing impairments.

Misconceptions and stigma towards partially and totally deaf people, especially in the rural areas of the vast county, were said to have led parents with deaf children to keep them at home, denying them education and health care.

The lack of supportive education centres for PWDs was cited as another challenge. The PWDs mingled freely with the guests and participated in traditional songs.

The lack of medical facilities with the Ear, Nose and Throat departments posed a major challenge for the deaf in the villages.

Ms Winnie Kalai, founder of Naisho Hearing and Speech Organisation, said she had to fight against the tide to get medication for her son, who developed hearing problems at a tender age. 

"I went through a rough time when my son developed hearing challenges. I fought against misconceptions and the high cost of treatment for him to live a normal life. We need to amplify the voices of people living with disabilities in our society," said Ms Nabulu.

Joseph Kayioni-oldonyo Nyokie Location chief said stigma against people living with disabilities was still prevalent in rural areas.

"For many years, people living with disabilities were seen as outcasts and discriminated against, but with community sensitisation programmes, the stigma has been reduced," said Mr Kayioni.

 Judy Pere CECM Public Service, Administration and Social Services said the Kajiado County government is moving in earnest to enact a disability mainstreaming law in 2023 that will identify all people living with disabilities and enrol them in support groups.

 "It has been a challenge for society to embrace people living with disability as we observe World Hearing Day, we have a new county act that takes into consideration people living with disability," said Ms Pere.

The focus of World Hearing Day 2024 was to address societal misconceptions and stigmatising attitudes through awareness raising and information sharing, targeting both the public and healthcare providers.

According to the State of Kenya Population 2020 Report, 918,270 people aged 5 years and above are living with a disability.