Friday, October 22, 2010

Uganda center aids children with disabilities when parents can't

The intro to a story in

KAMPALA, Uganda -- Eight-year-old Grace says she will forever be indebted to Katalemwa Cheshire Home. When the young girl reported to the centre in February, she could not talk properly, saliva was oozing out of her mouth and she had other disabilities which doctors say were caused by cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects muscle tone and the ability to move in a coordinated way. It is caused by brain damage that occurs before or during a birth or the first three to five years of a child's life.

The story for Grace is now different as she is hoping to start school next year after learning to speak and write from Katalemwa Cheshire Home.

The home located on Mpererwe Hill, 8kms on Gayaza road was founded in 1970 as a charitable organisation. It caters for children with disabilities aged below 18.

According to Connie Kekihembo, the executive director of Katalemwa Cheshire Home, Grace is an example of the many children with disabilities that are kept in their parents' houses due to society's negative attitudes.

She adds that such attitudes are traced from deeprooted cultures where children with disabilities are looked at as a curse. "The situation worsens if the child is a girl," she says.

In many cases it, is the women to suffer with them as the fathers will put the blame on the mothers and disown the children.

Kekihembo explains that whereas some parents do not know what to do, others are too poor to facilitate their children's rehabilitation programmes.

Katalemwa Cheshire Home has embarked on a community-based programme to aid children with disabilities. In Nangabo and Nabweru sub counties, they discovered that in every three homes you get one child with disabilities. Records indicate that a field visit will identify between 100 and140 children with disabilities.

"These cases require intensive rehabilitation. The children need to be admitted but we fail due to limited space in our dormitories," Kekihembo says.

She estimates about 85% of children with multiple disabilities to be living in the communities.

About 52,610 children were supported by the centre last year and Kekihembo expects the number to shoot up to about 80,000 children this year.

She says most disabilities come as a result of poor nutrition, malaria during pregnancy for the mother and after birth for the child, domestic violence where the baby may get injured while in the womb.

However, the home, which was planned to carter for 95 children is at times forced to accommodate about 300 due to the increasing number children according to Kekihembo.