Kotime and her mother are the definition of resilient. They have braved disability, war, exodus and rejection by their family to fight for a better life.
When Kotime was 9, she suddenly lost the use of her legs. At the same time, her family was forced to flee their home to escape violence. Kotime and her family have received support from Humanity & Inclusion’s teams in Burkina Faso.
Before her village in the Sahel became the target of increasingly frequent jihadist attacks, Kotime's family enjoyed a peaceful life. Then, in 2019, fate took a turn for the worse. Just as Kotime's condition suddenly deteriorated, the village came under renewed attack. Only weeks before her family fled and took refuge in the north central region of Burkina Faso, she found herself unable to walk.
Mariam, Kotime's mother, has fought for her daughter against all the odds.
“I stayed in the hospital for about three months while my daughter was being treated,” Mariam recalls. “My in-laws were threatening to disown me because I’d left my home to treat a child who might never walk again. They also said Kotime was not my only child. So, I had to bring her back again. Then one night, armed groups entered our village, killed people, and stole our animals, so we had to leave. It was extremely hard for me because I was pregnant, and I fled with Kotime and her sister in my arms."
In seeking safety, the family now faces new challenges.
“When we got here, to feed ourselves, we sold all the animals we had left,” Mariam explains. “We've been here for a long time. My husband doesn’t work. Now and again, I collect sand to sell, or I go to town to wash clothes to feed my children and buy soap. Sometimes we get help from the government and NGOs. That's how I met the Humanity & Inclusion team, at a disability awareness event. They spotted Kotime. I’d just given birth. I was carrying my baby on my back and Kotime in my arms. I would take her to places of worship and pray, hoping she might walk again.”
Kotime, 11, has never been to school.
“Kotime has never attended classes. When my daughter was 7 years old, the age children start school, the schools in our village were already closed because it wasn’t safe. Two years later, she fell ill, and her lower limbs were paralyzed," Mariam explains.
Working alongside Kotime and her family
Humanity & Inclusion’s Inclusive Humanitarian Action project team has supported Kotime and her mother in helping their family understand Kotime’s disability and the importance of rehabilitation.
“To start with, HI’s awareness-raising officer came to talk to us to learn more about Kotime's situation. She referred us to the functional rehabilitation center, but my in-laws were against the idea,” Mariam says. “HI did everything they could to convince them and offered to mediate between us. The officer came back to meet my husband’s brothers, but my father-in-law wasn’t there. When he heard the news, he set his mind firmly against it. It took more meetings with my family and a visit from the director of the rehabilitation center and a religious figure to convince my in-laws! But today everything has changed, at last!”
Kotime couldn’t wait to start her twice-weekly rehabilitation sessions. Humanity & Inclusion also equipped her with a wheelchair, walking frame and leg braces. Now, she can join in everyday family activities again and can even take a few steps on her own. Mariam no longer has to carry Kotime from place to place and is able to spend more time with her other children.
"The wheelchair’s changed Kotime's life - and mine too! It means I can take her everywhere without feeling worn out, and thanks to her rehabilitation sessions Kotime has begun to walk again, although she can’t go far. Life is returning to normal,” Mariam says. “She can help me with the dishes, and best of all she can go out and play with her friends again. They bring her home after they’ve finished playing. I’m really proud of her!”
This testimony was collected by Pascaline Nongbzanga Tapsoba, who is responsible for Humanity & Inclusion’s community campaigning and inclusion work in Burkina Faso.
Header image: Kotime and her mother, Mariam, fist bump each other. Copyright: Olivier Czar Katona/HI
Inline image: Kotime plays with other children from her community. Copyright: Olivier Czar Katona/HI
Humanity & Inclusion is marking World Clubfoot Day on June 3 by highlighting the importance of early treatment. Providing care for clubfoot in the weeks immediately after a child’s birth can prevent them from growing up with a disability.
Clubfoot is the malformation of one or both feet and is visible at birth. If left untreated the foot never regains its normal position, with serious consequences for the child. They can never wear shoes, risk injury, and find it difficult to walk, especially over long distances. Because the child cannot take part in activities with other children, they also risk being excluded and stigmatized.
“We can prevent this bleak outcome," says Uta Prehl, one of Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation specialists. “But we must detect this malformation as soon as possible after birth. It’s one of the keys to successful treatment. The child can then be treated effectively, and the malformation corrected, and within months they can walk normally. Social workers also play an important role in the care cycle by working with parents to ensure they continue the treatment. If children are not followed up correctly and regularly, the malformation may not be properly corrected. So, it’s crucial to give caregivers as much information as possible.”
Treatment involves placing a cast—which is replaced every week for six weeks—on the child’s leg to steadily correct the foot. The tendons are sometimes operated on before the final cast. Humanity & Inclusion’s partner organizations then fit the child with an orthopedic brace made of a bar connecting two small shoes, which is worn for the first four months and regularly adjusted to appropriately correct the malformation. The child’s feet are checked until they are able to walk, and an X-ray is performed to check healing. The brace and shoes are normally removed between the ages of 3 and 4. The child continues to attend regularly follow-up consultations until they stop growing to prevent the malformation from returning.
For several years, Humanity & Inclusion has trained physical therapists in a number of countries to promote the early detection and appropriate care management of clubfoot. Teams continue to run these projects today, particularly in Burkina Faso and Sri Lanka, so children born with these malformations grow up without disabilities.
Image: An adult's hands hold the out-turned feet of a small child in Cambodia who has clubfoot. Copyright: Lucas Veuve/HI
Humanity & Inclusion observed the International Day of Education on January 24, by alerting Sahel countries’ governments and international cooperation organizations on the unjust exclusion of girls with disabilities from school.
Worldwide, women with disabilities are three times more likely to be illiterate than men without disabilities. The education of young girls, including girls with disabilities, is an injustice that Humanity & Inclusion is fighting against, particularly in the Sahel region, which includes many low-income countries.
In 2020, Humanity & Inclusion donors and partners helped fund 52 inclusive education projects in 27 countries in West, Central, North and East Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. This work focuses in particular on children with disabilities - the most vulnerable and excluded young learners in the world - in low-income countries, both in development and emergency contexts. Humanity & Inclusion teams work to increase enrollment, participation and the success of children and young adults with disabilities in education.
The reality of girls' education in the Sahel
In Mali, less than 18% of women with disabilities can read and write. In Niger and Mali, more than half of the girls enrolled in primary school do not follow through to secondary education. In Burkina Faso, only 1% of girls have completed secondary school. For girls with disabilities, they face double the challenge of obtaining an education.
Prejudices against disability
In the Sahel, children with disabilities also face horrific levels of prejudice and false beliefs. For instance, some families see having a child with a disability as a "tragedy" or a "punishment." Children with disabilities are treated poorly and sometimes even hidden. Some people believe that disability is contagious.
According to some beliefs in the Sahel Region, the bodies of people with disabilities have magical properties. Girls with intellectual disabilities are vulnerable to sexual abuse and violence because some believe that sexual intercourse could bring them wealth or power or even cure AIDS.
The role of boys
A boy is considered to be responsible for the family's future income. Boys are sent to school and have a better chance of getting a paid job. It is seen as unnecessary for girls to attend school, as they are routinely confined to domestic work.
Children with disabilities are very often seen as an additional burden on the family, and girls with disabilities even more so. The costs of educating girls with disabilities are considered too high, in part because of the economic loss involved. Girls with disabilities often contribute to the economic survival of the household through begging or by participating in domestic chores.
Obstacles at school
When they manage to attend school, girls with disabilities face many obstacles. They often drop out of school early as they approach puberty, due to the family’s concern to protect them from sexual violence and early pregnancy. The lack of adapted toilets is also a cause of repeated absences and abandonment.
"I prefer to study but if my parents force me to marry, I will agree to do what they tell me to do." - Fata, blind 11 year-old girl, Mali
In rural areas, the distance between home and school is a major obstacle to schooling for girls with disabilities. For students who walk to school, long distances pose a safety risk. And the cost of transportation is often too expensive for families.
In Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger, experiments in inclusive education for children with sensory impairments are successful. The conditions for success are based on an assessment of the child's needs and the commitment of teaching staff who are proficient in sign language or Braille.
"The first year was not easy learning Braille. I didn't feel comfortable. But now it's okay. As time went by, I managed to make friends and we learned to understand each other. I would like to go to high school in Senegal and become a lawyer in my country." - Daouda, 16-year-old girl with low vision, Mali
Importance of education
It is estimated that an additional year of study can increase a woman's income by 20%. If all adults in the world had completed secondary education, the world poverty rate would be halved.
Limited access to education leads to low participation in the world of work. In some low- and middle-income countries, the cost of excluding people with disabilities from the workforce is as high as 7% of gross domestic product.
Reducing inequalities between girls and boys in how they access education could boost the economy by between $112 billion and $152 billion each year in low- and middle-income countries.
Image: Oumou, 9, who has an amputation, sits behind her desk. She is a beneficiary of the Humanity & Inclusive Education project in Mali. Copyright: Pascale Jérôme Kantoussan/HI
When Sonia was two-years-old, she contracted meningitis, causing her to have hearing loss and blindness and one eye. Today, the 19-year-old attends a college that is adapted to her specific needs, in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Sonia is in her third year, studying for a diploma in hospitality. Once she’s finished with her studies, she hopes to open her own restaurant. But like many other students with disabilities, she’s concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic will affect her plans for the future.
Living in poverty
Sonia lives with her mother and seven brothers and sisters nearly 19 miles from the country's capital, Ouagadougou, where she studies hospitality. During the academic year, she lives with a host family next to her college.
Her family is extremely poor. Sonia's mother grows vegetables on a plot of land and breeds a few animals. She extracts sand and gravel, and sells it in the city. Her brothers and sisters work in the fields. During breaks from school, Sonia helps take care of the peanut crop.
Attending college and learning a trade
Sonia will soon earn her diploma in hospitality, but her classes have been cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her school was closed for two months and now she is worried about her future. "It's difficult for a hard-of-hearing person like me to find a job because it’s not easy to communicate,” Sonia says. “When people don't understand what you're saying, or when they think you can't understand, they automatically pigeonhole you without thinking about what you are capable of."
Sonia often struggles to communicate with her host family in Ouagadougou. The family goes the extra mile to make her feel welcome, but they find it difficult to communicate because no one in the family knows sign language.
Obstacles to self-reliance
Living in a large city with heavy traffic is a challenge for Sonia. She's afraid to travel without help. “I find it frightening when I move around by myself, especially on a bike, because of my disability. If someone blows their horn, I can't hear it and my vision is also very limited. I can ride my bike in the village, but in the city, it's very difficult for me.”
School closure: future in jeopardy?
Schools and colleges were closed for two months to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 and have only just reopened. Sonia's was no exception.
“I’m wondering how the college closure is going to impact on my future. I have to take an exam this year and I don't want to miss it. I'm trying very hard to succeed. My future depends on this college. I really need my diploma. Besides, I miss my courses and my classmates!"
After her diploma, Sonia plans to make her dream a reality by setting up and managing a small restaurant.
Humanity & Inclusion works to protect the most vulnerable
As COVID-19 takes aim at our planet's most vulnerable neighbors, we're ensuring that people with disabilities, people with injuries from conflict, children, women, and especially older people have the information--and even the soap--to stay healthy. Learn more about our COVID-19 response.
In West Africa, millions of children don’t complete elementary school. Some have never been to school. HI estimates that a third of these children have a disability. Our inclusive education program, which runs in nine West African countries, aims to ensure that all children have the opportunity to learn, play, and make friends at school and feel valued in their communities.Read more
In early June, in the town of Tenkodogo, Burkina Faso, a country in West Africa, a Handicap International orthopedic center caught fire and was almost completely destroyed. The causes of the fire are still unknown.Read more
Malnutrition is endemic in Africa’s Sahel, an arid region in between the Sahara desert and the savannas of sub-Saharan Africa, which is often affected by drought. Due to a lack of essential vitamins and minerals, children with malnutrition suffer from restricted growth and develop after-effects, which can be disabling in the long term. The result is not always fatal, but the impact on their quality of life can be devastating.Read more
Humanity & Inclusion promotes Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of people with disabilities and vulnerable populations in development and fragile settings. View the flier here.
Since 1982, Humanity & Inclusion has worked in more than 30 countries to respond to the mental health and psychosocial needs of people facing humanitarian crises and/or living in precarious contexts. Our teams promote optimal mental health and foster social participation in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. View the flier here.
HIV & Disability in West Africa: A Combined Analysis of 4 Studies Conducted in Burkina Faso, Niger, Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde (2019)
(Only available in French) Humanity & Inclusion works to ensure that no one is forgotten. This research paper responds to the call of UNAIDs and ensuring that no one is forgotten in the response to the epidemic. This paper includes four studies which seek to better understand the situation by HIV-related situation of disabled men and women living in West Africa. View the paper in French here.
This Kisumu County strategy outlays the principles, objectives and actionable activities that the Department of Health and Sanitation of the County Government of Kisumu, Kenya commits to undertake in order to provide the highest attainable standards of health; particularly sexual and reproductive health. View the strategy here.
Seeing the invisible: Sexuality-related knowledge, attitudes and behavior of children and youth with disabilities in China (2019)
Young people with disabilities have the same right to sexual and reproductive health (SRH) as their peers without disabilities, but their needs and rights are often overlooked. The findings of this study, which was initiated by UNESCO and Humanity & Inclusion, aims to provide evidence to support decision-making by government agencies, educators, development workers and other relevant stakeholders regarding developing and implementing disability-inclusive SRH and sexuality education policies and program for young people in China. View the report here.
Mental health problems are commonplace and affect more than one in four people worldwide. They are responsible for a quarter of all disabilities. This document aims to provide a basis for exploring these concepts as part of more in-depth work, including an update of the 2011 mental health framework document. View the document here.
Humanity & Inclusion works to prevent violence based on disability, gender and age and its disabling consequences in development and fragile settings, as well as to provide holistic care for survivors of violence, exploitation and abuse. HI’s goal is to ensure that people with disabilities and other at-risk groups are less exposed to violence and can live in dignity, independently, and with control over their own lives. View the flier here.
Humanity & Inclusion promotes the awareness raising, prevention, early detection, and care management of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) including cardiovascular diseases, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes in development and fragile settings View the flier here.
People with disabilities are living with HIV. This paper explains why they must be included in virus prevention education, provided access to treatments, and rehabilitation. What's more, people living with HIV are not receiving proper rehabilitation care as the virus causes impairments. View the article here.
Road safety is a growing development and public health issue. Globally, road crashes are close to becoming one of the first five causes of death, and non-fatal injuries heavily impact on disability. Indeed, each year, road crashes kill 1.25 million people and injure as many as 50 million others. View the briefing paper here.
This document is intended to provide guidance and a framework for each stage of the project cycle for projects tackling the theme of diabetes and other cardiovascular risk factors. View report here and brief format here.
This analysis paper presents the ‘know-how’ acquired by Humanity & Inclusion in its diabetes prevention and control projects. View report here.
A policy paper that presents a design for a national plan on psychosocial interventions, aiming to develop and promote the national plan established during the July 2006 war. View report here.
As It Is: Research Findings on the Knowledge, Attitude, Practice and Access to HIV and AIDS Information and Services Amongst Persons with Disability (2007)
Scientifically gathered information concerning the knowledge, attitude and practice among people with disabilities in areas surrounding HIV and AIDS. View report here.
Humanity & Inclusion in Burkina Faso
The first West African country in which Humanity & Inclusion ever worked, our team has been present in Burkina Faso since 1991, defending the fundamental rights of people with disabilities and responding to the urgent needs of people affected by conflict.
Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world. People with disabilities frequently live in poverty and have little access to education, employment or healthcare.
Since 2015, the northern areas of Burkina Faso have been experiencing growing insecurity due to conflicts between the state and non-state armed groups. This prolonged insecurity has led 1 million people to flee their homes, cutting off economic resources essential to their survival.
Areas of Intervention
- Physical rehabilitation
- Maternal and child health
- Inclusive education
- Disaster risk reduction
- Mental health and psychosocial support
- Road safety
In 2021, our 187-member team operated 12 projects in Burkina Faso. 50% are humanitarian projects, 25% respond to chronic crises and 25% respond to development needs.
Humanity & Inclusion trains health and rehabilitation professionals, and helps to coordinate a regional rehabilitation network. Teams also ensure that children with disabilities have access to education and that young people with disabilities can complete vocational training to join the workforce.
In the Sahel region, Humanity & Inclusion provides basic assistance to families facing increasing insecurity, as well as physical stimulation for children who are malnourished. Teams work with teachers and staff to develop and implement emergency preparedness plans in schools that may face security issues.
With our partners, Humanity & Inclusion aims to ensure humanitarian response is inclusive of people with disabilities and aging individuals.
Our Past Work
Humanity & Inclusion has been working in Burkina Faso since 1991. Over time, we have evolved our work to meet the dynamic needs of the communities where we serve.
Until 2015, our team worked primarily on long-term development projects. Due to the ongoing security and humanitarian crisis, we have gradually reoriented our operations to meet the urgent needs of the population.
Read on to learn more about our past work in Bolivia, and consider investing in our future.
In partnership with the Ministry of Health, Humanity & Inclusion worked for the rehabilitation of the National Orthopedic Fitting Center of Burkina (CNAOB). It subsequently supported the development and implementation of other rehabilitation centers throughout the country.