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Uganda, October 2015: From loneliness and jiggers to joy

By Jane Afoyocan

Veronica Kugonza was an 11-year-old disabled girl living with her grandmother, Constancio Kaheeru, following the death of her father in Buheesi sub-county in Kabarole District.

During a routine home visit exercise, Dianah Kobusinge (a Community Development Officer in Buheesi sub-county in the district of Kabarole) mapped out Constancio’s home as one of the critically vulnerable households in the area. Constancio was in her late 80s yet living with four grandchildren, one of whom was Veronica, an 11-year-old girl with a disability in both legs and left hand side. Veronica used her right hand to move about since she had no wheel chair. Her grandmother could not afford one.

Despite her condition, Veronica was expected to perform household chores. She was often left alone at home, with her 3-year-old sister in her care, while their grandmother went out to look for food and attend to other needs. Veronica cooked for herself and the other members of the family.

Veronica’s greatest challenge was accessing latrine. She had just a t-shirt given to her by a well-wisher. She was always dressed in her t-shirt without a skirt or underclothes. She washed her t-shirt once a month along with the clothes of the rest of the family. Due to the poor hygiene practice, Veronica was exposed to what the CDO referred to as secondary disability inform of jiggers on her toes and fingers. Dressed in just a t-shirt and yet grown, Veronica was also exposed to the risk of abuse. An older relative used to abuse her, saying that she was dirty and hopeless.

Veronica had never gone to school. The grandmother said she could not go to school because she had no wheel chair and one was not affordable.
 

Community Development Officer’s intervention

With support in form of cash transfers that UNICEF gives to the District to facilitate the follow-up of cases of Violence Against Children (VAC), Dianah was able to make a follow-up visit to Veronica and her grandmother and counsel and guide them on proper hygiene and sanitation practices, including dressing needs for Veronica.

Veronica, on the other hand, opened up and shared her sentiment with Dianah expressing the loneliness she feels when left alone and her desire for education. This prompted the CDO to follow the matter with higher level authorities including leveraging support from other well-wishers.

In December 2014, the CDO linked Veronica to a Youth and Women Empowerment (YAWE) project; a Community Based Organization (CBO) based in Fort Portal Municipality. Fortunately for Veronica, YAWE agreed to see her and undertake a minor assessment to determine if her condition would meet the minimum requirement to qualify her for their support. An assessment needed to be done at YAWE offices in Municipal municipality, exposing them to yet another challenge of securing transport from their home Buheesi to YAWE office, a cost which Veronica and her grandmother could not afford.

Motivated to help in all ways possible; the CDO arranged to transport Veronica to and from the YAWE office. Fortunately, the assessment result was positive. Veronica was offered a wheel chair plus an education scholarship that will take her through all levels of education, and is inclusive of basic needs like food, clothing and shelter, as well as physical therapy to correct her limps.

Veronica has enrolled at Canon Apollo School for children with Special Needs in the boarding section. She is very grateful for the love and support she received from the CDO Buheesi and YAWE, and the care and support she is receiving from teachers and pupils of Canon Apollo – her new home. She is full of joy and looks forward to having a brighter and more promising future.

 

 
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