Father abandoned Joseph and the 16-year-old mother

His father left when he found out that he was physically disabled. His mother refuses to give up on little Joseph when she had him as a 16 year old. Help from Adina Foundation Uganda (AFU) is key in his improvement.

BY MAGNE REIGSTAD/TEXT/PHOTO

Once a week, one of AFU’s physiotherapists, Gloria, travels for half an hour from our center to Ogur. The pickup she travels in is packed with assorted equipment and supplies which she uses for treatment and therapy at the regional clinic. At the Ogur clinic, AFU borrows a room for free to treat patients. The administration at the clinic knows that patients are very impoverished and can neither afford to pay for physical therapy or frequent trips to our center in Lira. 

Little Joseph (2) is the day’s first patient. His mother has been good at following the training program that Gloria has designed for them and she sees significant improvement as she moves Joseph’s arms and legs. Joseph reaches towards his mother when she shows him an abacus, and he reacts positively when Gloria snaps her fingers. These are good signs!

Out in the tight corridor mothers and grandmothers wait patiently with children on their laps and backs. Some are in colorful dresses, others move along in sandals with worn down heals. Gloria’s next patient is a fiery four-year-old who has been brought to build up her leg muscles so that she walk on her own two feet. She had only crawled around in the village as a youngster, but now her grandmother is acting in order for her to receive treatment. She was abandoned by her mother. 

Gloria places her in a type of standing support chair, resulting in screaming protests. The grandmother looks apologetically our way. Gloria observes the protestor’s reactions and believes that it will be possible for her to build up her muscle mass if the damages have not been too extensive. The prescription for success is patience and thorough training.

The Ogur clinic lies in the middle of an area where the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) and Joseph Kony reigned terror until the civil war ended around 2006. In later years many young HIV-infected children come to the clinic’s specialized ward, but according to the local health authorities there are now less cases. In the hallway posters convey messages about how both single people and couples can live well with HIV infected people.

Gloria faces many expectations and a great deal of skepticism when she tells parents what is affecting their children and how the physical disabilities which they face can be dealt with. She must first convince the parents that the physical disability is not witchcraft, and then their fellow villagers must learn to understand that a corrective operation or physical therapy can rehabilitate a child.

The expectations of parents can also be challenging, as they are often awaiting nothing short of a full recovery, and that if improvements do not come quickly parents might drop out of the treatment program. – This is a fight with a lot of factors and no quick victory for anyone, says Gloria.

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