A mother knows the pain of a child best. When a child cries, the first thing that comes to your mind is hunger, but it is a different case in Soweto East Resource Centre in Kibera slum, Nairobi Kenya.

The project, which is partly funded by United Nations Habitat, and the Kenyan government offers physiotherapy sessions to children with physical disabilities in Soweto East in the slum. However, due to a large population of slum dwellers, not all children benefit from the services.

You might think you just entered a hospital because of the long queues of women seated while carrying their physically disabled children. This happens every Wednesday and Thursday and they would wait on queue patiently for hours for the only physiotherapist who attends to each child.

Soweto East Resource Centre assistant manager Michael Wanjue says that it sometimes takes a whole day to serve the children.

“Sometimes they stay here till late in the evening because we have only one physiotherapist who charges affordably.”

Mr Wanjue, however, says that the children cry due to hunger or when they cannot endure the pain related to their physical condition.

“It’s unbearable to see the children crying especially in their shape. The parents can hardly pay for the services. We only have one bed and one wheelchair, so these parents have no choice but to carry their children, causing the children pain and stiffness. I feel empathy for these mothers who sit here from morning; some even leave their houses without eating breakfast and the resource centre is not capable of feeding them,” he says.

Every physiotherapy session is a painful experience for the children. Neither soothing nor coaxing would make them stop crying. Some of the mothers cannot stand the pain of watching their sons and daughters cry in agony so they avoid being present during the therapy.

Being brought up in a slum area and with physical disability, these children are exposed to all kinds of hardships that every slum dweller faces given their meagre earnings. Some children are crippled and need wheelchairs and beds specially designed for people with their condition.

Some have neurological complications and need special treatment abroad but this seem like an impossible dream to these handicapped children.

Another parent says that she is a single mother and unemployed. The little that she earns by working as a domestic labourer cannot even sustain her, so she forgoes a lot of her needs to save her little earnings to cater for the needs of her son.

She laments that it is quite tricky especially when she has to go to work and no one would constantly look after her child while she is away.

Some parents say that some people would avoid any kind of contact with these children and would treat them like outcasts and call them cursed because of the myths associated with the condition.

According to section 54 part 1 of the Constitution “[a] person with any disability is entitled to be treated with dignity and respect and to be addressed and referred to in a manner that is not demeaning”.

Part II of the same section states that “[a] person with any disability is entitled to access materials and devices to overcome constraints arising from the persons with disabilities.”
So, it is time persons with disabilities are treated with fairness and equity like any other person in society.

Children are the most vulnerable and innocent members of the society. However, they are often voiceless and prone to be abused and violated if their rights are not defended.

The children, especially the ones with any form of disability should be given much attention both from government and the society.

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