Living with paralysis, Imani opens store in refugee camp
Imani, 29, lives with her mother and five siblings in Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya. Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, she had to flee the country because of numerous raids against her tribe. Unfortunately, during her journey she was involved in a traffic accident that caused a spinal cord injury, paralyzing both her legs.
Imani, 29, lives with her mother and five siblings in Kakuma refugee camp in northern Kenya. | © Humanity & Inclusion
After the accident, Imani was taken to a Ugandan hospital for treatment. Her life was saved, but her journey was just beginning. With her family, she set out again to reach a safe haven. The travelers sought help from bush pilots who transported them to the Kenyan border, where they met a team from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) who took them to the Kakuma camp. They were finally safe!
In the refugee camp, Imani was visited by a Humanity & Inclusion (HI) community rehabilitation staff member. Her situation was assessed and it was understood that she had total paralysis of her lower limbs and was dependent on her mother and siblings to perform certain tasks, such as moving from one place to another. A rehabilitation plan was prepared with the family and implemented immediately. She received a wheelchair, in-home rehabilitation sessions and work was done to make her home more accessible.
Imani's mother was even trained to provide basic care to ensure continuity in the rehabilitation process. "We learned how to transfer her from her bed to her wheelchair and also some other exercises that we can do mainly on weekends when the HI rehabilitation staff is not working," the mother said, smiling.
Imani attended several trainings organized by HI on the rights of people with disabilities and joined a committee whose objective is to implement inclusive measures in the Kakuma camp. This committee has also received training on entrepreneurship, enabling its members to organize income-generating activities. It is thanks to these trainings that, in November 2019, Imani took out a loan from a partner organization, Sacco, and managed to open a store right next to her house!
Covid-19: One more obstacle
The Covid-19 pandemic hit her business hard, with most of her customers no longer able to afford her products and health restrictions causing supply difficulties. Her business hours were also reduced due to the government-imposed curfew, which made it difficult to make enough profit.
"HI has helped us implement new Covid-19 measures. We now provide soap and water for clients to wash their hands. I also always keep a social distance of one meter from them and wear a mask," Imani explains.
Mastercard Foundation partners with HI to help refugees in Kenya
The Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program has two main goals. First, to deliver emergency support for health workers, first responders, and students. Second, to strengthen the diverse institutions that are the first line of defense against the social and economic aftermath of this disease. These include universities, financial service providers, businesses, technology start-ups, incubators, government agencies, youth organizations, and nongovernmental organizations.
For more on the Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program, please visit their website.