Growing Stronger in Mozambique


When meningitis finished running a brutal course through little Shany Hermínio’s body, she was left with physical and mental developmental delays. At first, her family lived close to a hospital, and her mother could bring Shany to a rehabilitation clinic for physical therapy. But when the family moved to Malhangalene, one of Maputo, Mozambique’s poorer, rundown neighborhoods, trips to the hospital proved too costly. Shany’s rehabilitation stopped.

By age four, Shany had lost the ability to open her hands. She moved around very little, and her health deteriorated rapidly. Luckily, a social worker spotted her. The social worker was visiting the most deprived suburbs of Maputo and Matola to connect people with disabilities to services—part of Handicap International’s “City and Disability” project. It was clear that Shany needed help.

“Shany was suffering from malnutrition with the physical signs of fatigue and extremely wrinkled skin,” the therapist recalls. They got right to work.  

The therapist explained to Shany’s mother that physical therapy could happen at home—at no cost. Her mother learned how to assist during Shany's therapy sessions at home, she also learned the techniques, and now puts them into practice every day. She got advice on hygiene, nutrition and her daughter’s other health needs, learning now to prevent disability in other ways.

The guidance changed the way Shany's mother thinks about her daughter and how they interact. “I thought physical therapy could only be done in places with special equipment, like the central hospital," she says. "But when I saw the in-home sessions, I realized I could do it too.

“Shany has a little program that starts very early: we begin with her gymnastics session, followed by a meal rich in vitamins and protein, before moving on to physiotherapy support.”

Shanny is already much better. After just three sessions, “my daughter can fully open her hands and finds it a lot easier to move around,” her mother says with a smile.

The “City & Disability” project run by Handicap International in the suburbs of Maputo and Matola in Mozambique aims to increase the social participation of people with disabilities and their access to services. It also runs forums with its partners to discuss the development of national inclusion policies. These partners include the RAVIM mine victims assistance network, the Ministries of Social Action and Women, and the Social Support, Guidance and Information Centre (SIOAS), the group that identified Shony. Handicap International has been present in Mozambique since 1986. To learn more, visit

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