Sierra Leone’s polio disabled battle adversity

3739185FREETOWN, (IRIN) – Sierra Leone’s civil war famously left tens of thousands maimed, including many whose limbs were amputated. But while war victims received some help, those with other disabilities struggle to survive.

Disabled Sierra Leoneans face difficulty obtaining adequate healthcare, education and jobs, which are already hard to come by in the country.Photo: Felicity Thompson/IRIN

While there are no data available, polio survivors are believed to account for a significant proportion of Sierra Leone’s disabled. Many came to Freetown during or after the war, in search of safety, shelter and employment. Few now have jobs, and most resort to begging. Many have trouble finding a place to sleep.

At a government-owned building in downtown Freetown, more than 200 polio survivors live with their families in small spaces divided by cardboard walls. The building is overcrowded, with just a few toilets and a small washing area, and with families growing, it will soon become untenable.

The community is run by the Handicapped Youth Development Organisation (HYDO), a group whose members are disabled.

HYDO plans to develop a plot of land it bought in Waterloo on the outskirts of Freetown for disabled people to work, farm and live. But with few means of income, the community faces an uphill battle.

Practical Tools Initiative is collecting wheelchairs and other mobility aids for disabled people in Sierra Leone. We also aim to set up a wheelchair production and repair centre complete with tools and support to enable disabled people to be independent and self-reliant.

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