Two Ugandan children are - children, with support from their community
By Maria Nabatanzi
Like all children, those with disabilities have many abilities, but are often excluded from society by discrimination and lack of support, leaving them among the most invisible and vulnerable children in the world.
Today, UNICEF launches its flagship report The State of the World’s Children 2013: Children with Disabilities. The report brings global attention to the urgent needs of a largely invisible population.
It has been more than 10 years since Beatrice and Sony were gravely wounded during conflict in Uganda. With support from the community, they are – children.
GULU DISTRICT, Uganda, 30 May 2013 – Beatrice Adong and Sony Kinyera were victims of the brutal fighting in northern Uganda involving rebel group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) that ended in 2006.
In 2002, both children stepped on a landmine and lost a leg. “I was walking from the garden with my mother,” recalls Beatrice. “Without knowing what was on the path, I stepped on the landmine, which crushed my right leg.”
Through rehabilitation services, both Sony and Beatrice were fitted with prosthetic legs.
Two children, 11 years later
Beatrice is 18 years old, and Sony is 17. Both are secondary school students at Gulu College in Gulu district.
Like the other children in their community, both young people attend school during the day, and have chores at home.
Sony has outgrown his prosthetic leg. Using his woodworking skills, he has made himself a crutch. “My disability has not stopped me from doing anything,” he says. “During holidays, I go back to my grandmother in the village and I help her dig, and I also go to the wood workshop in town.”
Being counted, being children
In The State of the World’s Children 2013: Children with Disabilities, Executive Director Antony Lake asks, “Is there a child who does not dream of being counted and having her or his gifts and talents recognized?”
Beatrice and Sony live with challenges of disability every day, but disability does not define them.
Both Beatrice and Sony are members of the Gulu Disabled Person’s Union, which promotes inclusion through weekly basketball games for all children.
On occasions when Sony is reminded of his limitations, he says, “My friends don’t discriminate against me. I even have more friends now. So I don't feel rejected.”
Beatrice addresses her disability only when asked. “Sometimes they don't even notice that I have an artificial limb, and sometimes they ask me about it – I am happy to explain. They accept me, they are my friends.”
The reality for some children coping with the effects of conflict is learning to live with a disability caused by that conflict. Ensuring that these children have the right kind of social support and services will help define their futures – and ultimately influence how they contribute to their communities and their countries.
Surviving conflict is a beginning. All children need to be provided with the opportunity to thrive.