In most communities in Cameroon, children have suffered different forms of abuse because of their disabling conditions. The situation is compounded when these disabilities come from birth. Children born with a disability are more often than not tagged as ‘obanje’, evil spirits and demon-possessed children. They become victims of child abuse, neglect and abandonment. Such is the case of Tcheutcha Grace Skis, a 3-year old child born with Cerebral Palsy (CP). Her mother, 27 years Yimfouo Yemlong Falon experienced a difficult delivery during her birth.
Grace, is one of many children who because of their disability are rejected and looked at with disdain by some family members who would prefer the child should not be allowed to live. This is sometimes fueled by ignorance and other times, it is just the denial to accept a child whom they presume will be a ‘burden’ in the family. This denial will more often than not be accompanied by abuse if all measures to get rid of the child are unsuccessful.
When Grace’s father realized that Grace had CP and could not walk at the age of three (3) years, he proposed Euthanasia (Mercy Killing). To him, Grace was not a ‘normal’ child, as he called her ‘obanje’ – evil child. To him, Grace should be placed by the river side to disappear to the marine world where she belongs. While working in communities, these are frequent narrations, mostly from the male members of the families – fathers of the children. It is also common scenarios for the fathers to abandon their wives and the child/children who are born with a disability. Rejection will sometimes come from extended family members, leaving the mother to ‘carry her cross’ alone. She is often called the mother of a witch and stigmatized by other members of the community. The resilience against all these odds, the love extended to their children and the determination to see their children heal and cater for them is however quite commendable.
Such is the determination exercised by Grace’s mother who, though abandoned with her child by the child’s father, never gave up on the child. The father flee from home after all attempts to terminate the life of Grace were futile. He cut all communication with his family and the welfare of the child and her mother never mattered to him anymore.
Grace’s mother, a hairdresser by profession later got information from a member of a parent support group and her follow up led to her contact with the Disability Inclusive Child Protection Officer of the CBC Health Services based in Bafoussam. Her compelling story led to investigations and measures taken to ensure that the child’s father who hitherto has completely abandoned his family, take care of his child. Though he has been contacted and is not yet fully involved in the child’s welfare, the Child Protection Officer Mr. Njoya KeLvin is leaving no stone unturned to bring the man on board. So far, he has accepted to start helping the child to meet with her basic needs, an acceptance that needs follow up to ensure that he respects his word.
Grace is a happy child and the intervention has also led to the production of a walking aid. Grace who was crawling at 3 years, can now take some steps and there is gradual visible improvement. The project has worked together with the mother to get calipers for the child to further strengthen her legs and improve on her mobility. The bond of love between the mother and the child has continued to grow, with her greatest wish being for her child to walk perfectly and be able to go to school. The project is working to get the full participation of the child’s father for these lofty dreams to be realized for the child. With Liliane Fonds, all children will enjoy the good things of life.
By Clementina NJANG Yong.