Baida Rosaline, a young woman of 27 years in Kaele, a predominantly Muslim community in the Far North Region of Cameroon finds hope in the Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) for her son with disability in a community where giving birth to a child with disability is often perceived as punishment from the supernatural world. Theirs is a community where a male child is highly favoured to perpetuate the family lineage, and for a woman to give birth to a boy child with a disability only puts the woman in a very difficult situation. If the man is humane enough not to dissolve the marriage, he has the latitude to abandon the care of the said child to his wife with impunity.
Like most girls in her community, Baida Rosaline got married in 2010 at the tender age of sixteen. She got pregnant that same year and cherished the idea of becoming a mother. Her excitement was short lived as a few months after the birth of her son, Palai Aimé Amadou, she realized something was not right. As most members of her community, she could not decipher what the problem was with her son. To make matters worse, the hospital she went to didn’t do much to enlighten her on the condition to dissipate her fears. Her husband outrightly rejected their son, refusing even to cuddle him. The inexperienced young girl was left alone to bear the brunt of taking care of a child with special needs, faced with the pressures of having other children as soon as possible to make up for the “abnormal one” or face the threat of a readily available co-wife.
The situation was made more difficult as Palai was unable to achieve major age-related milestones. As even the most beautiful woman in the world can only give what she has, long years of taking sole care of Ahmadou took its toll on his mother. Tired and depressed for seeing no major change in her son, Palai’s mother got discouraged and resorted to abandoning her son alone at home, sometimes locked up in the room or simply left on the yard under very harsh climatic conditions.
A nun from the Congregation of Marie Reine des Apôtres, a Partner Organisation of the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services that takes care of children with disabilities with funding from the Dutch based Liliane Foundation identified the child during a field visit in the community. Finally, a name was given to the condition of Amadou. Cerebral palsy! This was the first time Palai’s mother had factual information about the condition. All through, she has believed her child was bewitched. The field worker explained to her that with patience, love and education, Palai could achieve a certain level of functionality. Ahmadou was referred to Fondation Bethleem in Mouda, a rehabilitation centre for children with disabilities and another Partner organization of the CBC Health Services.
Mrs. Tongou Jeanne, physiotherapist and CBR field worker at the centre explains that when Amadou first arrived the center all he could do was lie down all day long and sleep. Her goal was to help him stand and walk. With the use of a parallel bar, massages and good food, Amadou began to stand and walk for short distances. Mrs. Tongou says it was pure delight to see the joy on Amadou’ s face every time he took a step further than the previous day. “You could literally see him savoring each step added on a daily basis”, Mrs. Tongou recalls.
After four months at the centre when Amadou’s Mother came to pick him up for holidays, great was her amazement. Not only could her son stand and walk, but also, there was a glitter about him that she could not explain. Amadou, who is now in an inclusive school, went back home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, field workers continue to visit him in the community. Parallel bars have been constructed at their home with local materials. With constant follow up, Amadou has achieved another milestone. He is now capable to communicate and he can express his emotions and needs.
Amadou’s mother is receiving capacity building to take care of her son whenever he is at home. Her faithful collaboration with CBR workers is testimony of her new found happiness. She has become a committed member of the parents’ support group of her locality, using her experience to comfort other women with children with disabilities. With a huge smile, she expresses her gratitude to the Sisters of the Congregation of Marie Reine des Apôtres, CBC Health Services and Fondation Liliane, which according to her, gave life to her son. As she puts it, “Amadou started living when he made his first step. This perpetual glitter on his face says it all. I’m forever grateful to all the partners who made this possible”.