Ruvimbo Mugaza, in her early 50s, is living in seclusion as she struggles to raise her two physically challenged children. The children suffer from Trisomy 21, also known as Down syndrome (DS), a genetic disorder.
Ruvimbo and her husband, Titus Marufu, admit that the journey of taking care of the two is not a walk in the park, especially because they have four other children depending on them.
The children, Paul Ngorima, 20, Daniel Marufu, 15, were born with the condition, but the parents did not seek any medical intervention, thus complicating their situation further.
“One is deaf and the other is dumb. It is a challenge because they cannot do anything. I must watch them daily and depend on my husband for everything,” said Mugaza.
The children have been a laughing stock in the village with other parents warning their children against mingling with them. “I cannot fault them for isolating my family because God has a reason. I love my children, that is why I do not hide them from the public,” said Mugaza.
According to they Down Syndrome Society of Zimbabwe, the condition is caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21.
DS causes varying degrees of intellectual and physical disability and associated medical issues. Over 40,000 people have Down syndrome in Zimbabwe.
People with DS typically have poor immune function, increased risk of a number of other health problems, including congenital heart defect, epilepsy, leukemia, thyroid diseases and mental disorders.
The condition is typically associated with physical growth delays, characteristic facial features and mild to moderate intellectual disability.
According to Down syndrome International (DSI), based in the USA, it can be identified during pregnancy by prenatal screening.
Due to poor and inaccessible health facilities in her region and poverty, Ruvimbo did not get the opportunity to take her children for a check-up. “Our financial situation did not and even today cannot allow us to take them for management or to special schools. We can only live with them as we have been,” she says. She adds that lack of access to special schools hindered their intellectual growth and exposure.
According to DSI, there is no cure for Down syndrome, but education and proper care have been shown to improve quality of life.