• October 20, 2020

My Disability Became My Greatest Strength

I feel marginalized so many times . I have missed out on so many opportunities i used to get back in my country. For example i was a doctor back home even with my condition but for three years now i haven’t found work. My children also went to better schools which they are not accessing now. But i haven’t given up hope .Charles Geriga a South Sudanese refugee said sadly.

I feel marginalized so many times . I have missed out on so many opportunities i used to get back in my country. For example i was a doctor back home even with my condition but for three years now i haven’t found work. My children also went to better schools which they are not accessing now. But i haven’t given up hope .Charles Geriga a South Sudanese refugee said sadly.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees report of 2017, an estimated number of about 1.9 million out of 65.3 million persons of concern, including asylum seekers, refugees and internally displaced persons have severe disabilities all struggling for voice and inclusion in their host countries.

Geriga, who is lame physically is one of the thousands of disabled refugees who aside from dealing with the trauma of losing loved ones and a lot of property suffer marginalization and stigma on a daily basis because of his physical condition. However regardless of his condition, he is hopeful and knows that with God, he can do all things.

According to the Refugee Act of 2006, section 29, refugees regardless of their status and physical conditions while in Uganda are entitled to fair and just treatment without discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, sex, nationality, ethnic identity, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. These include those living with disabilities who have rights to access education, engage in agriculture, to practice the profession if qualified and access employment opportunities equally as the nationals.

This Act has therefore promoted programmes that encourage inclusion of people with disabilities in society and extends even as far as the refugee settlements. For example, in Bidibidi settlement, in North Western Uganda’s Yumbe District where Charles resides, these programmes are initiated by mostly humanitarian Organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Norwegian Refugee Council, WorldVision, International Rescue Council and many more that provide protection for all people and children with disabilities.

Walter Odong , the head of rule of law and child protection at International Rescue Committee in Bidibidi explained how the protection of the rule of law programme is designed to help people with special needs.

However, regardless of the presence of such programmes, there is still a huge gap in ensuring people with disabilities live a comfortable life . There is insufficient health care services according to Geriga and poor quality education since there are a few schools for children with special needs according to Sebule Solomon who implements an education project with Save the Children at Yoyo Primary School in Zone 3.

It is these limitations therefore that motivate Geriga to work every single day. With time, he has acknowledged his state and condition, knowing that it is not a disability but only a mere limitation to certain abilities. It is not something he can be ashamed of anymore. He said.

Understanding and accepting his condition has made him confident, bold and outspoken. He is currently the Refugee Welfare and Community 3 Chairperson and refugee leader of his Village in the settlement. He also now owns a small drug shop that he operates so as to get more money to supplement that which is given to him by UNHCR in order to sustain himself and his family.

Geriga helps his other colleagues by encouraging them to accept and love themselves regardless of their conditions as a form of psycho social support. He also encourages them to work instead of waiting to be helped because he believes that with God on their side, they can gain a comfortable lifestyle for themselves and their families.

The only person that is helpless is that one with a problem with their brain. if God gave you a brain that works normally then utilize it. He will then bless you with that you are doing. Geriga said as advise to other people living with disabilities.

Considering that refugees come with a lot of distress as a result of the harsh situations they have gone through, being disabled therefore is double trauma. Refugees with disabilities thus need extreme care and attention so that they can benefit themselves and their host communities according to the humanitarian agencies.This can only be achieved if they are provided with better services that help them cope easily. Geriga said.

I hope that someday, i will go back to my country when the war is finally over. Geriga said.

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Dorine Cochran
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