Persons with Disabilities of Cameroon

I lived in Bamenda, Cameroon for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer working in Community Health Education with persons with disabilities.  Through working with persons with disabilities, I discovered that this population is facing a serious crisis as well as human rights violations.  Many are barred access to healthcare, education, marketplaces, and many buildings.  

When people are and are either in an accident or become ill, they have no money for healthcare. As a result, they become disabled without the healthcare. They become the poorest of the por and struggle more to work or can no longer work. Ninety-five percent of persons with disabilities are the poorest of the poor. 

Many persons with disabilities are hidden in homes.  In addition, some lay in beds all day.  Many marketplaces and buildings are not equipped for persons with mobility disabilities because they do not have ramps and elevators.  

Only 2% of Cameroonians with disabilities have received formal education.  Many parents think children with disabilities are worthless and cannot be educated.  

Women and girls with disabilities face a very high risk of domestic violence and rape. They are at a higher risk of acquiring HIV/AIDs, because they are uneducated, unintentionally spreading this disease because they have no knowledge of the existence of the disease and how it is spread. Parents of girls with disabilities who believe their daughters cannot become pregnant bar them from access to sexual reproduction health education. As a result, girls with disabilities become pregnant out of wedlock without any understanding of how and why they became pregnant. Sixty to seventy-five percent of women and girls with disabilities live in rural communities.

 Sylvester is a 17 year-old teenage boy who has been deaf and blind since he was two years old from an unknown illness.  He has never been to school.  He doesn’t know tactile sign language and cannot communicate with anyone

Joseph, a retired police man, broke his hip and never received any kind of care. He can no longer stand and walk.  He feels pain all the time in his right hip and right leg.  He stays in a dark room in his home all day and everyday.

Damian was born with club feet that can never be fixed due to a malpractice by a nurse.  The nurse had no knowledge of fixing club feet and tied bandages too tight on his feet.  When growing up, his mother had to carry him to school.

Therese is a young woman in her 30’s who is unable to walk, has bowl movement issues, and has never left home.  All seven of her sisters have been to school, but she has never been to school in her life.

Eba-Dylis became blind suddenly one day and visited a witchcraft doctor, which is very common in Cameroon.  When attempting to treat her, the witchcraft doctor created burning in her head. She then went to the hospital and learned that she is permanently blind from retinal detattachment.

Tabitha is a woman with mobility disability.  She has a wheelchair but cannot use it majority of the time because many roads are in poor conditions, thus making the wheelchair difficult to maneuver, and many buildings have no ramps and elevators.  Therefore, she often gets around by crawling.

Martin became disabled from polio in 1965.  His biggest challenge is earning enough money.  His disability slows down his work on the farm because he cannot walk in long distance.

Helen became disabled from gender-based violence.  A man tried to force her to marry him, but she refused.  He set her house on fire and cut her hands and arms with machetes.  

Hilda, a radio journalist, is one of a very few women with disabilities who live in upper middle class. However, she is not married.  She wants to be married but no man will marry her.  She believes it is because they see her as a disabled woman first.  

Michael became disabled from polio and often moves around on his knees and on a tricycle.  While he works as an electrician, people see him as a begger.  When he approaches people, they asume he is coming to beg them when he has no intention to beg.