In 2013, following intense fighting and fearing for his life, Uguok Ajang Goldit an 80-year-old single man living with scoliosis–a congenital deformity of the spinal column–fled his home in Malakal, South Sudan. Along with thousands of others, he sought refuge at the nearest United Nations base, which has since become a Protection of Civilians site, a place of refuge for civilians under threat of physical violence.
At the site, humanitarian organizations provide for people’s most basic needs such as food and clean water, but as conditions are cramped–rudimentary and physically challenging–people with disabilities are at risk of being overlooked.
Having left everything behind, Uguock found that all of his everyday tasks were challenging and time consuming. In particular, he found it difficult to walk the long distances to collect his food ration. Handicap International intervened and provided him with a tricycle that allows him to access food and healthcare more easily.
Last week, while our “flying team” was in Malakal conducting home visits, they stopped by to visit Uguock. He showed our teams a pile of dish-hangers that he’s been making from old sacks, which he now sells to generate income.
Handicap International also met Mary, a woman who is partially paralyzed in her lower body. When she arrived at the camp in 2013, she moved around on her hands and knees, which meant she was reliant on others to buy food and had difficulties using the toilets.
Mary says that her life drastically changed after Handicap International provided her with a tricycle. “I can now go to church, the market, and even attend our monthly disability meetings without crawling,” she says.
South Sudan is currently experiencing severe food shortages. In February, famine was declared in two regions in the north of the country, meaning that people are already dying from hunger and disease.
The crisis is being described as man-made because conflict is at the root of the problem. Violence has forced people to leave their homes, their land and their livestock, leading to reduced food production and soaring prices. Many families are now completely dependent on food assistance to survive.
As the food crisis worsens throughout the region, more people are going to find themselves in extremely challenging situations. Now more than ever, Xavier Duvauchelle, head of Handicap International’s East and Southern Africa programs says, “we must work with emergency response organizations to support them in providing essential care to people who are at risk of being excluded, including people with disabilities and older people.”
In South Sudan, Handicap International ensures the needs of people with disabilities, older people, pregnant women, children, and others are taken into account in humanitarian programs implemented by international aid organizations.
We plan to distribute food and water, supply rehabilitation care and provide psychological support sessions if needs are not adequately covered by humanitarian organizations already working in the field.
HANDICAP INTERNATIONAL IN SOUTH SUDAN
Handicap International first deployed an emergency response team to South Sudan in 2006. Since then, Handicap International has continued to adapt its activities to respond to the immediate needs of the internally displaced population, and promote the equal rights and equal access to services for people with disabilities or injuries. Learn more about our work in South Sudan.