Handicapped refugees flee Congo


By Paul Ndiho,

People with physical disabilities are facing a mountain of challenges in eastern Congo. Among a population that has frequently been forced to flee their homes, those who are disabled are often left behind.

Congolese citizens fleeing to Uganda– a hardship for anyone forced to make the journey. But imagine what it’s like if you can’t walk. When Adam was a teenager, he became afflicted with polio.  Determined to become more self-reliant, he set up his own electronic repair business and with the money he earned he bought his own wheelchair. Congo Disabled Refugees-1

“We have others who are very disabled who are not able to move at all. They can’t walk, they just sit down. Adults would rather choose to carry their own children so they leave the disabled behind. These are the challenges we faced as people with disabilities.”

Adam traveled to Uganda with his wife and five children just after the troubles started in mid-July.

“When I fled, it’s my wheelchair that helped me to escape. I had a lot of problems on the way – no water no food. I have nothing, i am just the way you see me here.”

Michael Sande was also born with disabilities.  When the rebels attacked his north kivu village a few years ago, his father abandoned him.  He crawled into the bush to hide from the rebels and his wife, with great determination, then saved him and their baby.

“She put me on her back and the small baby on her chest, and we walked to this place.”

As a refugee Sande struggles to earn a pittance repairing shoes in his tiny house. It supports his family, which has now grown to six children.  The day after Adam reached the camp he set up his repair shop under a tree, the first refugee here to go into business for himself.  He says as long as you have a skill, you don’t have to wait for others to help you.

“We the disabled we have a saying that says: Disability is not inability!

“When being disabled doesn’t mean you should not work, no you should work!”

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has struggled with conflict in its eastern provinces.  Earlier this year the u-n security council authorized the peacekeeping mission monusco to use force to bring an end to a conflict that has lasted more than two decades– internally displaced more than 2.6 million Congolese– and forced more than 460-thousand people to flee th

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