Nappies a basic right

Children with disabilities, nappy run, nappies


Most people don’t think twice about their ability to go to the bathroom freely whenever they need to. For many children with disabilities, this is a privilege not easily afforded. Some disabilities can lead to incontinence, which might require the use of a nappy. Unfortunately many of these children and their caregivers do not have access to basic incontinence products, largely because they cannot afford them.

As part of basic healthcare rights enshrined in the Constitution, nappies should be provided free of charge to children with disabilities through state hospitals and clinics. However, as with many services for those with disabilities, the state neglects its duties.

Why nappies are needed

Each year, the National Council of and for Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) organises its annual Nappy Run campaign, which plays a significant role in highlighting the importance of nappies. According to André Kalis, specialist for advocacy, policy and children’s matters at the NCPD, the nappy is a symbol of the basic unmet needs and rights of children with disabilities.

“If the incontinence of children with disabilities is not accommodated through nappies, it impacts on a number of their rights, including anything from their right to dignity and hygiene through to freedom of movement,” he states.

Imagine for a second the absolute horror of losing control over your bowels while busy with an activity. For a child with a disability who cannot count on a nappy to protect them, dealing with this  is a demeaning daily occurrence.

“A lack of protection against incontinence leaves them in unhygienic circumstances, in discomfort due to skin irritation and odours, and feeling humiliated,” Kalis notes. He points out that the leaks that occur when a nappy is not worn, could cause the child’s clothes, bed and wheelchair can be ruined, further impacting their family financially.

For low-income families, however, nappies are an unaffordable luxury. This is why these iems must be provided free of charge by the state.

The importance of the Nappy Run

As a counter to the state’s inaction, the NCPD is using its annual Nappy Run campaign as a vehicle to raise awareness of these children’s quiet suffering. It is focused on the conditions that children with disabilities live under, the continued challenges they face, and their rights that are being violated. Importantly, the campaign raises funds to buy nappies for children with disabilities.

The goal is to raise enough funding for at least 55 000 nappies for children with disabilities around the country in 2019. The Nappy Run culminated in an exciting five-kilometre fun run at the Johannesburg Zoo on National Children’s Day, November 2.

But it’s not over yet: the NCPD still implores South Africans to consider donating online to help it reach the goal of 55 000 nappies for 2019. Kalis concludes: “For children with disabilities, living without nappies is demeaning and cruel. By supporting the Nappy Run campaign, you can make these children’s lives considerably better and provide them with hope for the future.”

To donate or to learn more about the Nappy Run, visit

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