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Neglected by her family, Zawadi finds hope in new country

Inclusion Supporting the Displaced Populations/Refugees

When she was 23, Zawadi was seriously injured in a traffic accident in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, causing permanent disabilities. Although Zawadi has not walked since, she has regained her independence with the support of Humanity & Inclusion (HI), and in a different country she now calls home. However, her journey has not been without its challenges.

When she was 23, Zawadi Balagizi Giselle was seriously injured in a traffic accident in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, causing permanent disabilities.

When she was 23, Zawadi Balagizi Giselle was seriously injured in a traffic accident in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, causing permanent disabilities. | © Humanity & Inclusion

After her accident, Zawadi underwent several medical procedures to try to heal her injuries. Unfortunately, doctors soon realized that she would be unable to walk for the rest of her life. To make matters worse, her father kicked her out under pressure from the community, as people with disabilities are discriminated against and stigmatized in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

"In our country, if you are a disabled person, they say it is a curse and a punishment from God," Zawadi explains.

Zawadi was left homeless. She managed to find refuge in a local church where she stayed for a few years. Funds were eventually raised to send her to Kenya for proper and quality medical care.

From one country to another

In 2018, Zawadi left Congo, traveled all the way through Uganda and finally reached Kenya. She then registered at Kijabe Hospital, located in the Rift Valley, where she was able to begin treatment, some of it expensive. With no savings due to her situation, money soon ran out. Zawadi had to set out again to find another shelter.

A Kenyan friend told her about the UN office in Nairobi and offered to take her there. Maybe she would get some help from the UN authorities? Zawadi embarked on what would be her last trip. Soon after, she registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and was transported to Kakuma camp where she was finally able to set down her bags!

A new home

Upon arrival at the refugee camp, Zawadi was immediately referred to the HI rehabilitation center. After evaluation, she was diagnosed with a total spinal injury. This new diagnosis confirmed that the treatments she had received were not the right ones. She was offered rehabilitation services including physical and occupational therapy and psychosocial support. HI provided her with a wheelchair and also did work on her home to improve its accessibility. Zawadi was also referred to a vocational center where she learned to knit. This enabled her to start her own business making table and seat covers, which allowed her to be financially independent.

"Having your own business when you are disabled, its a difficult task! But I had to succeed to survive," says Zawadi.

Impact of COVID-19

Despite the challenges, Zawadi was successful with her business. In the beginning, she earned enough to support herself and even save a little money. Everything was going well. Then COVID-19 came along!

Health restrictions have had a significant impact on her sales, which have dropped significantly.

"People would rather buy masks than protective seats," she explains.

The price of materials and supply shortages have taken their toll. Still determined, Zawadi decided to enroll in computer and beauty classes at a nearby vocational center.

Zawadi hopes that the pandemic will end very soon so that she can get her business back on track. In the meantime, she is able to count on the support of HI which will continue to encourage, motivate and empower people with disabilities to overcome the challenges of COVID-19, and to acquire new skills.

Mastercard Foundation partners with HI to help refugees in Kenya

The Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program has two main goals. First, to deliver emergency support for health workers, first responders, and students. Second, to strengthen the diverse institutions that are the first line of defense against the social and economic aftermath of this disease. These include universities, financial service providers, businesses, technology start-ups, incubators, government agencies, youth organizations, and nongovernmental organizations.

For more on the Mastercard Foundation COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program, please visit their website.

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