Uganda | Navigating the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic
As the pandemic continues, Humanity & Inclusion is working alongside communities to meet their needs and promote prevention and public health measures.
In Uganda, Humanity & Inclusion is part of a joint project implemented by seven non-government organizations in the Impavi, Omugo and Ofua settlements. The project to contain Covid-19 has already reached 60,000 people.
Health conditions are improving in Uganda, which recorded a steep drop in Covid-19 cases following a lockdown between June and July and an ongoing curfew. However, the vaccination rate remains low. Only 9% of people have had two doses of the vaccine.
Promoting public health measures
Working alongside health staff and communities, Humanity & Inclusion is helping counter the direct and indirect impact of Covid-19 by:
- Promoting inclusive communication of public health messages, such as translating information into sign language
- Producing six Covid-19 awareness radio segments
- Helping 200 health facilities, organizations run by and for people with disabilities, and local communities identify and support particularly at-risk populations, including aging and sick people
- Implementing hygiene training
- Evaluating staffing and equipment needs in five health centers
Ensuring equal access to essential services
Humanity & Inclusion is making it easier for people to access humanitarian aid and employment to curb the economic effects of the pandemic. Its actions include:
- Providing cash grants for people to access essential services such as food, medicine and housing
- Helping people access temporary work so they can receive food aid and to promote economic growth
- Supplying 200 telephones to enable electronic fund transfers in areas with stable cell service
- Training communities to prevent violence and abuse by establishing a free helpline, suggestions box and report desk
- Forming and training community boards to record and address reports of violence and abuse
Uganda | Kennedy stands tall thanks to his 3D brace
Thanks to an innovative 3D-printing project, 5-year-old Kennedy can walk on his own and play with other children for the first time.
Displaced by fighting in South Sudan, Kennedy’s family arrived in Uganda in December 2016, when he was just 9 months old. Now, he lives with his mother and two siblings in the Arua district.
Kennedy has Cerebral Palsy. And though he can eat, drink and hear easily, he is unable to speak. He also has limited dexterity and finds it difficult to hold objects.
“My wonderful, brilliant, cheerful little boy has had from Cerebral Palsy since birth,” says his mother. “Two days after he was born, he had a high fever; I took him to hospital in South Sudan where they diagnosed him with severe malaria. The doctors treated him straightaway, but it left him with consequences that have affected his mobility and communication skills: he can’t switch sides when he is lying down and he can’t sit, kneel or stand. He couldn’t walk without a walking frame. He depends on adults to do almost everything other children take for granted, including dressing himself or going to the bathroom.”
Kennedy began physical therapy with Humanity & Inclusion’s specialists in February 2020, after meeting with community volunteers. Despite challenges, Kennedy is growing stronger with each rehabilitation session. He’s already learned to stand and move around with the support of a walker.
In November 2020, Kennedy was enrolled in Humanity & Inclusion’s 3D PETRA project—an initiative that equips people with custom, 3D-printed braces and artificial limbs. After a consultation with a technician, Kennedy was prescribed braces for his feet. The team scanned his lower limbs, then printed braces to fit him perfectly.
As Kennedy continues his physical therapy exercises, he’ll soon be able to walk on his own with his braces. His mother is extremely grateful and delighted her son can finally play with other children in their neighborhood. Next, he’ll conquer school for the first time!
World Refugee Day | More and more people are forcibly displaced from home
More than 80 million people in the world are living forcibly displaced from their homes, according to the latest data from the UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency. That number has doubled over the last decade, skyrocketing in the last few years.
Violent conflicts, human rights violations, weather-related disasters and food insecurity are among key factors forcing people to flee their homes.
Among the 80 million people currently displaced, 45.7 million are displaced inside their home country. Humanitarian law differentiates between these individuals, who are referred to as internally displaced people, and refugees, who flee their home and cross a border to seek refuge in another country.
More than two-thirds of all refugees come from just five countries:
- Syria: 6.6 million
- Venezuela: 3.7 million
- Afghanistan: 2.7 million
- South Sudan: 2.3 million
- Myanmar: 1 million
39% of all refugees are hosted in Turkey, Colombia, Pakistan, Uganda or Germany.
More and more people are displaced for years. For example, the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya was established in 1992 and has grown akin to a small city. With more an 180,000 people living there, it is one of the world’s largest refugee camps. The camp is home to refugees from Sudan, Uganda, Eritrea, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Humanity & Inclusion works alongside people living in the camp and nearby host communities to provide physical rehabilitation services and assistive devices such as wheelchairs and crutches, and improve the living conditions of for refugees, in particular those with disabilities, by ensuring equal access to services, raising awareness of discrimination and building the capacity of staff working with refugees to assess needs.
Displacement of people with disabilities
Approximately 15% of the 80 million people displaced worldwide are living with a disability. Globally, an estimated 12 million people with disabilities have been forcibly displaced from their homes by conflict and persecution.
Forced displacement disproportionately affects people with disabilities, who are often at higher risk of violence, exploitation and abuse, and face barriers to basic services, education and employment.
Having left behind their homes and belongings, many displaced people—including those with disabilities—depend on humanitarian organizations like Humanity & Inclusion to access health care, food, water, shelter and other necessities.
Header image: A man carries his daughter, who is wearing leg braces, through a refugee settlement in Lebanon. They are Syrian refugees. Copyright: Kate Holt/HI, 2021
Inline image: An occupational therapist helps a boy with prosthetic legs use a walker during a rehabilitation session at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. Copyright: Patrick Meinhardt/HI, 2019
Uganda | Aisha's wheelchair gets a makeover
Aisha has been using a wheelchair for more than 10 years because she has post-polio paralysis and a lower limb discrepancy, in which her right leg is shorter than her left. Humanity & Inclusion gave her wheelchair a makeover.
Aisha sells groceries in a local market in her town, a suburb of Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. She travels about three miles in her wheelchair everyday, pushing it herself.
Worried about the state of her worn out wheelchair - its cushion torn - Aisha visited Humanity & Inclusion’s workshop.
During an assessment, Humanity & Inclusion found that the front castor wheel wheel was small and wobbly, and the rear tires were thin and worn, making it more difficult for Aisha to push her wheelchair. The chair was also too small.
Humanity & Inclusion didn’t have a new wheelchair available to fit Aisha’s needs, so the team gave her existing wheelchair a major overhaul.
The team made a new cushion, adjusted the seat width, replaced the rear tires and changed out the front castor wheel to an appropriate size. The brakes were also replaced.
After her wheelchair was re-assembled and checked for proper fitting, Aisha was re-trained on its use and maintenance to reduce of chances of it breaking down.
Aisha was overwhelmed with joy when she saw her revamped wheelchair.
“Wow, I am now going to enjoy my ride to the market since my worries have been sorted,” Aisha says.
Like Aisha, many wheelchair users have difficulty getting an affordable wheelchair that meets their specific needs, is suitable for their environment, fits properly. Making custom wheelchairs available not only promotes mobility, but it allows for people with disabilities to have independence and be more involved in their communities.
Image: A woman named Aisha gives a thumbs-up while sitting in her wheelchair, surrounded by the team who made repairs to her chair in Uganda. Copyright: HI
Uganda | 3D printing technology helps Hakim walk
Humanity & Inclusion is using telemedicine and 3D printing to provide physical rehabilitation services for refugees in Uganda. This innovative technology is helping to improve mobility and restore hope!
When a member of Humanity & Inclusion’s psychosocial support team first met Hakim, he had lost all hope. As a teenager in South Sudan, Hakim had a severe case of malaria and experienced a stroke that left him unable to use the limbs on the right side of his body.
“I do not think this life is worth living,” Hakim said at the time. “With these impairments, I cannot take care of myself. I cannot bathe. I cannot participate in meetings. I cannot visit friends. I would be better off dead.”
Today, Hakim, who is in his 30s, lives in the Omugo refugee settlement in northern Uganda where accessing basic services and information can be especially difficult for people with disabilities. Humanity & Inclusion has been working in the area since 2017, providing different kinds of support to improve quality of life for the most vulnerable refugees.
Months of hard work
In the refugee settlement, Hakim and his family were connected with a physical therapist and a psychosocial worker from Humanity & Inclusion. Together, they have worked on physical exercises to help improve his mobility and independence, and both Hakim and his caretakers received counseling to relieve the stress and anxiety felt by the whole family.
Four months of hard work saw a steady improvement in Hakim’s ability to move around his home and less need for physical support from others. However, he was still unable to walk more than a few steps and remained confined to his home.
To progress further, Hakim needed a custom-fit brace that would provide support for his lower leg. Acquiring one would usually require a long and expensive journey to a rehabilitation center in the capital city, but Humanity & Inclusion is using the latest technology to provide these medical opportunities to people living in impoverished, remote places.
A high-tech solution
Hakim’s leg was scanned not far from his home using a portable kit comprised of a tablet computer and a structure sensor. The 3D scan was remotely modified by an expert to generate a computerized model of his made-to-measure splint. The splint was then produced by Humanity & Inclusion’s 3D printers in the nearest small town and brought back to Hakim by his physical therapist.
“My life has greatly changed ever since Humanity & Inclusion started working with me,” says Hakim. ‘“The orthosis has greatly improved my walking … I never imagined I would be able to walk for more than a mile! I can go to the hospital on my own, I participate in community meetings and my voice is heard!”
Despite the challenges posed by Covid-19 in 2020, Humanity & Inclusion’s 3D rehabilitation team has reached more than 82 people like Hakim in Uganda’s refugee settlements. Each has their own story of restored independence and renewed hope.
Image: A man named Hakim sits in a chair while he is fitted for a 3D-printed splint at a rehabilitation center in a refugee camp in Uganda. Copyright: HI, 2020
Uganda | 3D-printed face shields protect COVID-19 first responders
In Uganda, Humanity & Inclusion has adapted its 3D-printing technology, normally used to produce orthotics as part of physical rehabilitation, to create protective face shields for health professionals on the front lines of the pandemic.Read more
Uganda | South Sudanese refugees tell their stories
Renowned photographer Giles Duley visited a refugee camp in Omugo, Uganda, where he met refugees with disabilities fleeing violence in South Sudan. Many of these individuals who were affected by the conflict, shared their personal stories and the significant challenges they face in the refugee camp.
Beatrice, who sits next to her mom, Reida, are a part of the 1 million South Sudanese who have taken refuge in Uganda.
Beatrice, who became paralyzed at age six due to the polio virus, wishes she could play with the other kids in the camp. Soon after this photo was taken, Beatrice received a wheelchair from HI’s team. As a result, she will be able to attend school and play with others.
Reida, Beatrice’s mother, sorts through beans that she will soon cook over wood for her three children. Beatrice likes to cook the sauce for the beans and often helps her mother.
John had his leg amputated in 2012 as a result of cancer. When shootings started during the night in his village in South Sudan, he had to leave in a hurry with his wife. John took his crutches but had to leave his prosthesis behind.
In the camp, John became a community volunteer with Humanity & Inclusion. He travels around the refugee camp to identify vulnerable people and people with disabilities, so that our teams can ensure they receive the support they need.
Catarina fled violence in South Sudan with her family. She feels very lonely in the refugee camp. It is very rocky which makes it difficult for Catarina to get around. She wishes she could go and have a chat with her neighbors and visit others in the camp.
Mary fled the violence in South Sudan and took refuge with her family in Omugo refugee camp.
“I wonder if I will see my friends again?” she said. She cannot reach her friends that she used to visit in South Sudan. They are all separated in other camps. It makes her feel stressed.
Mary has a disability due to the polio virus and also has scoliosis. She had to leave her wheelchair behind when she fled and now struggles to move throughout the camp.
Uganda Field Update | Aiding the most vulnerable South Sudanese refugees
Since the outbreak of civil war in South Sudan in 2013, Uganda has offered a place of safety to more than 1 million people fleeing the conflict since July 2017. More than 85% of the refugees are women and children. Meryll Patois, HI’s rehabilitation technical advisor in Uganda outlines the needs of South Sudanese refugees and the services that our teams are providing.
Caring for the most vulnerable
The needs are acute among South Sudanese refugees due to the type of conflict they're fleeing. HI is the first organization to provide this type of service—there are no other rehabilitation services in the camp. We can see the violence of the conflict on the bodies of our beneficiaries. Some people have suffered extreme violence and did not have access to any healthcare for a long time. They had to flee with their injuries, worsening the damage to their bodies.
Many of the people our teams are helping have fractures and injuries caused from shotguns. Many were attacked during the night and had to run away. Most of them have walked in very difficult conditions for days, without having access to any health services. We see a lot of beneficiaries who have unnecessary complications from simple injuries—these could have healed better if they were dealt with at an early stage. If a fracture is not treated right away, for example, it can lead to complications and long-term impairment.
HI has an integrated approach, which sets our services apart. We take a holistic view of every beneficiary we meet. For example, a mother with a broken leg cannot walk. So she cannot go and buy food in the market, work, or take care of her children. She may also have psychological trauma. In this case, our team would provide her with rehabilitation support but also psychological and protection support, and refer her to other organizations so that she can have access to all of the services she needs.
Our team would also try to find out if there is a caretaker who could help a person with an injury or disability. If so, we would train each caretaker, so they know what to do to support their friend, neighbor, family member, etc. We find a lot of solidarity in the camps. Neighbors are supporting each other even if they only just met. We rely on these human links to make sure beneficiaries can get all the care they need.
For example, one of our beneficiaries, Beatrice, is a 10-year-old, little girl whose legs are paralyzed due to complications from the Polio virus. She cannot walk. We will provide her with a wheelchair to go to school and we will also teach her mother how to support her daughter with physical therapy exercises.
Reaching and empowering the invisible
There is a huge injustice for people who cannot move around and don’t have access to the services they need because they cannot leave their shelter. HI is reaching these people who are often unintentionally excluded from humanitarian aid. Our role is to make sure that they receive the support they need. Sadly, there are still many in need of that support today.
HI has a fixed point in the camp for rehabilitation services, it's here that people can find us. We also have mobile teams of physical therapists, who reach individuals who are unable to leave their shelters. During a rehabilitation session, HI’s physical therapists work on movements to help the beneficiaries recover. If movement is not possible, HI’s team provides the beneficiaries with assistive devices such as crutches or wheelchairs to help improve their daily life.
We have a protection team that travels around the camp and identifies the most vulnerable people and their needs. We also rely on HI's community based volunteers, who are also refugees and know the community very well. Similarly, some beneficiaries are referred to us by other NGO partners such as Save the Children and the International Rescue Committee.
More about our work in Uganda
Present in the country since 2009, our teams helps victims of landmines and other explosive remnants of war to recover through physical rehabilitation, psychological support, and job training. Staff members also educate other Ugandans about the risks posed by these weapons. We are also conducting a census of people with disabilities, referring them to relevant services. Learn more about our work in Uganda.
Photo: Tabitha, 8, is from South Sudan and now lives in Omugo refugee camp in Uganda with her family. Tabitha has difficulty walking due to Polio. HI provided her with new crutches, adjusted to her height, so she can go to school with ease.
1 million South Sudanese refugees in Uganda
Since the outbreak of civil war in South Sudan in 2013, Uganda has offered a place of safety to people fleeing from the conflict. On August 17, the Government of Uganda and the UN Refugee Agency announced that the staggering threshold of 1 million South Sudanese refugees has now been reached.Read more
Seeking refuge in Kakuma
Record numbers of people are fleeing war, drought, and famine in South Sudan and Somalia. People with disabilities or injuries are forced to take enormous risks to reach a place of safety. Handicap International is working hard to make sure that thousands of people in similar situations across East Africa receive immediate card and long-term support. Collectively, we have a responsibility to ensure that all refugees live safe, independent, and dignified lives.Read more