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Mrs. Dhahabo, a refugee with disabilities, won't let the virus beat her

Prevention Rehabilitation

In Kenya, Humanity & Inclusion (HI) is teaching the most vulnerable, including people with disabilities like Ms. Dhahobo, to protect themselves from COVID-19.

Stella, the HI physio, pays a visit to Ms Dhahabo

Stella, the HI physio, pays a visit to Ms Dhahabo | © HI

Ms. Dhahabao lives in a refugee camp. A car accident reduced her mobility. She is very anxious about the COVID-19 pandemic. At 70, she is one of the people most at risk. HI reassures her and teaches her to wash her hands and wear a mask.

Today, we are visiting Village 3 in Kalobeyei camp to provide our patients with COVID-19 prevention training. We are visiting the home of Mama Dhahabo, a 70-year-old refugee who suffered a spinal cord injury in a road accident. We give her regular follow-up care as part of her rehabilitation sessions, explains Stella, an HI rehabilitation officer.

Life has not been kind to Mrs. Dhahabo. Only six of her eight children are still alive. She lives in the Kalobeyei refugee camp with two of them and is separated from the other four: two of them live in Nairobi, Kenya and two in Ethiopia.

She lives in a "semi-permanent" house made from dried mud walls and plastic sheeting, with two of her grandchildren and her daughter who is hearing-impaired.

Ms. Dahabo is one of the most vulnerable to COVID-19

Mrs. Dhahabo suffers from paresis of the lower limbs. She has lost the muscle strength in her legs and is no longer independent enough to perform routine activities. Walking more than a few feet on crutches is impossible.

She is completely dependent on the adapted tricycle, given to her by HI, to move around, especially outside the camp or over long distances.

Because of her age Mrs. Dhahabo is one of the people most at risk from COVID-19, so today HI organised a personal protection session for her and taught her how to protect herself from the virus.


“The programme includes hand washing techniques, how to put on and take off a mask, the importance of social distancing, and general hygiene. We're also going to teach Mrs. Dhahabo and her family how to clean her crutches and her tricycle to best protect her from the virus,"

says Stella.

"My eldest grandson also learned to help me clean my tricycle"

I'm glad the HI team came to my house today. They taught me a lot of things. I learned about the many ways to protect myself and my family from COVID-19 and they gave me some masks. We practiced washing our hands with soap and water and putting on and taking off a mask.

My eldest grandson also learned to help me clean my tricycle. These are very worthwhile lessons to learn because they improve our hygiene, which will help to protect us from the coronavirus, but also from other diseases like cholera. We were also given soap by the food distribution centre,explains Mrs. Dhahabo.

I’m very worried because I'm old and sick


"The first time I heard about the coronavirus was on the radio and then from the HI team. I also saw on my daughter's mobile phone how the virus was spreading in China. I’m very worried because I'm old and sick and the virus is killing so many people.

A lot of people in the camp are also unsure about what is going to happen next. I know it's particularly important to protect myself because I've heard the disease spreads easily and I don't want it to come here. I have to protect myself because I can't tell who has it and who doesn't have it, so I try to follow what we're taught and what the government is telling us to do.

The virus has closed all the schools. We stay locked up at home with the children. We also have to wear masks when we go to the market.

HI continues to visit me for rehabilitation sessions so I can do my exercises. During our sessions, we are given a mask and HI staff wear masks as well. I would like to thank HI for continuing to care for people with disabilities despite the pandemic, says Ms. Dhahabo.

When COVID-19 is over...

Now that we are used to washing our hands, life will be better because we won't catch other diseases brought by dirt, like cholera, for example.

Once the coronavirus has disappeared, I’m looking forward to seeing all my friends again, without a mask! I can't wait to go to the market and visit my friends on my tricycle. I’m also looking forward to my grandchildren finally going back to school and learning again,Mrs. Dhahabo says, with a clear sense of hope in the future.

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