Zambia’s disabled refugees need more security, better prostheses

[Anglican Communion News Service] The Anglican Communion’s development, relief and advocacy platform has revealed that disabled refugees in Zambia need more security, better prostheses and a comprehensive reporting of their special needs.

The call for better treatment of people in one of Africa’s oldest refugee camps Mayukwayukwa came in a report compiled by Tania Nino, the Anglican Alliance’s relief and programmes manager, after her visit there.

“There is an overwhelming need for prostheses and other mobility devices for people who have lost a limb,” the report read. “People have rudimentary coping devices that make everyday activities and life difficult.”

The replacements for limbs range from crudely fashioned peg legs to a boot packed with mud.

Mayukwayukwa refugee settlement, in the western part of Zambia, was established in 1966 and has a population of around 10,000 refugees from Angola, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi.

The World Food Programme (WFP) recently revealed that refugees with severe disabilities and elderly people without support systems are among the most vulnerable refugees.

The Anglican Alliance report pinpointed the major causes of disabilities in the refugee settlement: “The majority of the impairments are as a result of the conflict that people experienced in Angola: landmine injuries, firearms injuries and injuries sustained while running away.

“The second major cause is related to conditions linked to old age. Many of the refugees who arrived during that period (1966) are now of an advanced age.”

Concerns about inadequate security come out prominently in the report which suggests there is a correlation between poor security and gender-based violence.

An example of this was a 35-year-old woman with “complex physical disabilities” and “learning difficulties” with a four-month-old baby. The report stated: “This woman who came to the camp from Angola in 2001 had substantial and complex needs [but] there is no information about the exact nature of her disabilities.

“She is unable to walk, requires round the clock supervision, and can only communicate with her mother. Given the woman’s inability to communicate, it has to be assumed that she did not give consent to the sexual relations and the man responsible for this atrocity is unknown.”

The lack of information on the cause of some disabilities was also a concern for the Anglican Alliance. One 12-year-old girl who had had her arm amputated could only refer to her misfortune as “magic.”

The Anglican Alliance decided to visit Mayukwayukwa as a first step in scoping out the challenges facing people with disabilities, and how the church community can best respond to their needs.

To read the full report click here.

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