Gulu: Rotary International with support from Wheelchair Foundation in California and collaboration from the Rotary clubs of Gulu, Nsambya and Kampala recently over 100 wheelchairs to Persons With Disabilities (PWDS) in Acholi sub-region.
Out of the 526 that were imported into the country recently by the Wheelchair Foundation, 100 were distributed to Acholi. PWDS in the districts of Gulu, Amuru, Kitgum and Nwoya received theirs last week.
34-year old Santa Akot, a resident of Atiak Sub County in Amuru district says she got disabled in 1989 at the age of six when she says she stepped on an unknown substance that paralyzed both legs.
Akot, now a mother of four and a widow having lost her husband in 2000 during the over two decades of the LRA insurgency that ravaged the region.
She says fending for the family has been a challenge since her husband passed on.
Since her husband’s death Akot has been selling shear butter in Atiak trading center to raise school fees for her children’s education. Getting the wheelchair was a dream come true for Akot and she hopes to do more to help her raise her children.
“Mobility was always difficult for me. I move in mud whenever it rains and that causes me a lot of pain in my body since my condition reacts to coldness. I will do my business better with this wheel chair,” says Ajok with a beaming smile on her face.
Like many PWDs, it is Ajok’s first wheelchair since she was a child.
It is estimated that at least 100 million children, teens and adults worldwide need a wheelchair but cannot afford one. Some international organizations believe that the number could be as high as 6% of the population of developing countries.
The number in Angola is 20% of population of 12 million people. Other “landmine” countries that include Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Cambodia and Bosnia have extremely high physical disability rates.
Moses Onen, the Vice President of Rotary Club of Gulu, urged the beneficiaries , to use the wheelchairs for productive work that can improve their livelihoods.
According to Don Routh, the Director Wheelchair foundation based in California, donations from well-wishers and partners make it easy for them to buy the wheel chairs in bulk and at subsidized rates. He says most of the disabled cannot afford to buy wheel chairs for easy mobility.
“These are new wheel chairs. We were able to procure them for just $150 in the US. But these are wheelchairs that would normally cost $500 to $ 1,000 in the U.S in the retail market. However, the large quantities that we purchase allow us to deliver each one for roughly $150, and we send them by a 280-wheelchair sea container. This same type of wheelchair sells for up to $1,700 in some developing countries,” explains Routh.
Wheelchair Foundation collects donations and then sends containers of 100 to 280 wheelchairs each to their distribution partners in countries that have been identified as in great need. There are currently 152 countries on their list for support.
Routh adds that mobility is a basic Human Right that all human beings should enjoy no matter their circumstances.
“We believe that everybody in the world is entitled to mobility. When you have mobility, then you have mobility, then you have freedom, dignity and hope for the future.” He adds.
He further explains that the wheelchairs that they distribute are specifically designed for the rough conditions of developing countries.
Extra heavy wheels, tires, and front casters, sealed bearings and nylon seating make these wheelchairs the best possible solution for most conditions.
Wheelchair foundation with support from Salvation Army, Goodwill Industries, Catholic Charities, and other relief organizations has a goal to distribute 1 million wheelchairs in the next 5 years, and to further the awareness that a wheelchair is no longer an unaffordable item for delivery in developing countries throughout the world. Some groups and organizations do sponsor 280 wheelchair containers to the US, at a cost of $42,000 per container.