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UNICEF support offers hope for children with disabilities in Somaliland

Voices of children with disabilities

Hargeisa, 20 June 2013 - Children with disabilities in Somaliland often suffer discrimination and ill treatment mainly due to ignorance about their condition. One report suggested that nearly half of households surveyed had at least one member with a disability. Children with disabilities were less likely to go to school or play with other children and two in five supported the idea of tying them up and 28% giving them less food.

A community based rehabilitation project carried out by Disability Action Network (DAN) a Somaliland based organization to support the needs of people with disabilities with physiotherapy and orthopaedic appliances has been supported by UNICEF.

Here are some of the stories by the children who have received help from DAN, which operates in three towns (Erigavo, El-Af-Weyn and Yufle) and helps around 250 children and refers on many others it cannot help.

Nine year old Raaho Abdi Daher and her aunt and caregiver, Hubbi Daher Dhawal

Raaho: “I live with my aunt because my family lives in the country-side and I am in the first year at Koranic school.  I want to go to university and become a doctor.

Since coming to this project, my leg and arm are improving. I have also become confident as the staff here helped me recognize what I can do alone. I want to live like other children and improve my ability to walk and to use my arm properly.”

Hubbi: “I take care of Raaho by bringing her to the rehabilitation activities of DAN in the hope of restoring her ability to walk properly.   Her hand was clenched but now she can use it and the leg is progressing through therapy exercises. The main challenge for Raaho is transport which is expensive, as she is not able to walk long distances. The project team also gave me advice on how to manage activities of daily living for the child. I encourage parents not to lose hope and to give more time and energy to the children with disabilities.”

Eight year old Mohamed Hussein Mohamed lives with his aunt Su’ad Yusuf Du’alleh

Mohamed: “I had therapy exercises and now I can use my affected hand better. I am also playing and talking to other children now. I want to use my arm and be treated as a normal child like anyone else. I also want to go to school to get educated and find a job.”

Su’ad:  “I take care of Mohamed on daily basis: I prepare food for all the family as I have 10 other children to look after. Mohamed needs my close presence for support. I take him to the rehabilitation centre but he is not able to walk long distances and a transport cost is high. His arm was severely deformed, but the deformity is getting corrected gradually through therapeutic activities. I was also given advice and counseling regarding his condition and the future perspectives. I know what I can expect from him and what limitations are now. Children with disabilities should be given the support, stimulation and acceptance they need by the families, and the community at large.”

Six year old Suhaib Hassan Mohamed and his mother Filsan Abdi Ibrahim

Suhaib: “I am in the second class at Koranic school and am also taught at home and I want to be a religious teacher. I was given support in the form of physiotherapy exercises, massage, and a leg brace. They are kind to me as they give the opportunity to play. There are swings at DAN. Children tease me because I can’t run and play with them – I want to be able to play with other children. “

Filsan: “The project team taught me how to give massage and basic therapy activities at home for the child. They also gave me continuous advice and they listened to my concerns. They also helped me to get to know other parents who have children with disabilities. These other parents are now becoming my friends and we share information. The main challenge is to carry the child on my back from and to home. Mostly family members and neighbors stigmatize the child with disability. It is also difficult to allow the child to play with other children. I am scared he would be hurt. Now, Suhaib’s ability to stand up is progressing - maybe he will walk one-day, who knows. I think efforts should be made to change people’s attitudes towards children with disabilities and their parents.”

9 year old Ahmed-Yassin Abdi Mohamed and his aunt Shukri Mohamed Warsame

Ahmed: “I am in the first year at Nuradin School and I want to be an engineer. At the centre I get massage, training to walk and advice, as well as the opportunity to play and interact with other children. I injured a leg and I want to recover and walk without support and not to be permanently disabled. I am sad that I cannot run anymore, and I’m not to be able to play with other children in my area.” 

Shukri: “I think the main support is to give the child encouragement. After all, the brain of the child is more important than the body. I therefore try to give the child encouragement and to ask other family members to do the same. I also ensure to treat the child as any other child. He could not go to school on his own and he is not able to do toileting alone.

The project gave me information about the services that are available in support to children in general and for the children with disabilities in particular. Ahmed has been given therapeutic exercises and walking aid to help him move. Moreover, I learned basic skills to support him such as dressing, toileting, bathing and eating and these helped me to learn how to make him more autonomous and give support only when he needs it. I learned how to encourage him when he makes an effort. Parents should not be influenced by the bad words from people about the child with disability and to be strong to resist stigma and discouragements that we face daily. The government should also take the needs of children with disabilities into consideration.”

Khadra Mohamed Ibrahim (Mother of Safa Nasir who has mental disability)

Khadra: “I care for her on every aspect and give her protection against harm and abuse and make sure she has good nutrition. The challenges relate to sitting, and standing alone, as well as toileting, eating, and dressing. I am myself a mother with a disability, therefore it is not easy for me to give her all the support she needs, but I am motivated and I always give her the utmost care. DAN, supported by UNICEF, helped me to establish a small business activity. I got a beauty salon established and I received the material to set up. This project helped us to cover our daily expenses and elevated our standard of life. Now, I am in a position to take care of all my six children including the disabled one. My child and I also received mobility support, counseling and training on nutrition of children and basics of small business management. We started to rely on ourselves. I would be glad if the Income generating project gives more opportunity to other groups of mothers who have children with disabilities.

Five year old Adnan Mohamed Yusuf and his mother Roda Ahmed Issa

Adnan: “I am in the first class at Koranic school and I want to be a doctor. My knee was swollen. The project team treated me with massage, therapeutic exercises and casting. I want to walk normally so that my knee is treated. I have difficulty to walk now and to play with my seven brothers and sisters.”

Roda:.” I take care of Adnan. I give him the warmth of the mother. I love him and I gave him everything I can; food, clothes, a place to sleep, and when he gets sick I try to get medicine for him. The inadequate transport system is the main challenges, together with the attitudes of people towards me as a parent of a child with a disability and him as a child with disability.  But, I also bring him to the protection and rehabilitation project for support. I was taught some tips like how to give basic therapy at home and how to give the child credit and moral support as he puts efforts to recover. The stiffness in the leg is decreasing now, thanks to stretching therapeutic exercises. They use play mostly for therapy which I feel is good. Parents should not get discouraged and to educate their children with disabilities when they reach the age to go to school. I know there are a lot of barriers, but with strong mind, they can survive.”

Photos copyright: UNICEF Somalia/2013/DAN



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