Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The sad truth of the disabled in South Africa on International Day of the Disabled

On Mon, Dec 3, 2012 at 8:13 PM, Johanna <johanna@sophiatowncounselling.co.za> wrote:
Today is the International Day of the Disabled. It seems that this important day has forgotten this man, as have the many agencies tasked with the duty to uphold his rights and his dignity. A few months ago this man, aged 59, had a stroke which has left him paralyzed and totally unable to care for himself. He is unable to speak or walk, and unless somebody gets himself to the toilet on time he soils and wets his pants.  When they could do no more for him hospital staff dumped him with his only relative, his sister. She shares a bed with eleven children in a quarter of a sitting room in a flat in one of the biggest slum buildings in Berea. The sitting room is shared with two other families, while a couple lives in the one bedroom. Altogether 20 people share a bathroom, a toilet, and a tiny kitchen, which is home also to a huge deep freeze, containing nothing but one frozen orange and the encrusted stains of beetroot juice. Between the bed his sister shares with her children and the curtain which demarcates the living space of the next family, is less than one meter, just enough to squeeze in a wheelchair and a small TV. There is no space to move except onto the bed.  The flat reeks of urine and faeces. The wheelchair is broken. Social workers at the hospital told the sister that they could do nothing to find proper care for him (because he is a refugee), and at the humanitarian aid organization tasked with assisting disabled refugees has as yet not been able to come up with a workable suggestion.  No food, no linen, no space to move, no toiletries, no adult disposables, no care, no concern, no compassion. On this International Day of the Disabled we seem to count only those who achieve seemingly superhuman feats. A traumatized, smelly, starving, dirty disabled refugee does not fit our image of disability heroism.

Shame on us all!

Johanna Kistner

Executive Director/Clinical Psychologist
Sophiatown Community Psychological Services
4 Lancaster Street, Westdene, 2092

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