DAA News Network

Tanzania: Rumours have negative impact on disabled beggars

Posted 12/3-10 at 13.09

Rumours have been circulating in Dar es Salaam that a woman was bewitched by a disabled beggar. It was claimed that she grew hairs as she was trying to give him money. He then demanded to be kissed for the hairs to vanish. She obliged and, although, it is not known if the hairs vanished, soon after both she and the beggar certainly did. Of course, they may have never existed in the first place.

Disabled people in the capital, many of whom with no alternative but to beg for a living, have complained that because of this unsubstantiated event people have been shunning them. One of them said that he was facing difficulties in boarding a ferry as people were now looking at him suspiciously.


Editorial comment: This is an amusing story but highlights two not so amusing issues for disabled people - extreme poverty and superstition.

Throughout the world, in both developing and developed countries, disabled people tend to be the poorest of the poor. For example, in the UK it is estimated that up to 70% of homeless people, who often beg on the streets, have mental health problems.

Superstitions about disabled people over the centuries has led to us being murdered at birth, being burned as witches and being seen as punishment for the sins of our parents or our own sins in a previous life. One of the most outrageous and unsettling effects of superstition about disabled people was witnessed just last year in Burundi and Tanzania. In a three-month period 60 people with albinism were killed because it was believed that their body parts would bring people good luck in business.

Both issues were well captured by Hamis Ngomella, one of the 170,000 people living with albinism in Tanzania and chairperson of Pwani Albino society. He has said, "Disability is simply our own invention - the hardship, things difficult to understand. It is a socio-political issue rather than a matter of health."





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