Sunday, July 31, 2016

First Impressions of Disability in Sandema, by Daniel and Lauren, LIFE Project Team Leaders


“Sandema is located in the Builsa district of the Upper East region of the Republic of Ghana. The town is noted for its devise and rich culture and the main occupation is farming.  The annual festival of the people of Sandema is called the Feok which means ‘abundance of food’ and is well patronized by all both home and abroad to the town.

In spite of all this rich history, in comparison to the southern parts of Ghana, the Upper East – specifically Sandema and its environs – have huge numbers of people living with disabilities. The causes is mostly attributed to the lack of quality health care in the region and the increasing rate parent giving birth at home. My passion for helping and working with people with disability was further boosted when I was placed in Sandema. It has always been my dream to help people and with my observation so far Sandema will offer me a great deal of opportunity in this regard.

With my first few weeks of placement on the ICS team LIFE project I sought some expert opinion about why there is this huge numbers of people living with disability. I contacted one Assembly Member in the area called Mr. Evans Adochim and he told me a lot of scientific research has been done over the years but he couldn’t give details. He also said some people attribute it to witches and wizard and think it is a curse.

My interaction also with Mr. Kennedy, Special Education Coordinator at the Ghana Education Service (GES) in the Builsa North district, said the most common disability in Sandema and its environs is cerebral palsy. This condition is caused by damage to the brain (e.g. complications during birth, jaundice after birth or infections through meningitis or cerebral malaria). He further explained the situation is even worse in a community which is about 5 kms from Sandema. He even entreated International Service to help him do a research on why Wiaga has a high prevalent rate of disabilities.

What amazes me about disabled people in Sandema is that they are well organized as a group, have their own office, and have some business ventures which earn them some money for a living which is something am very encouraged and enthused about.”

Lauren with Mr Charles, who is blind. Charles makes sun loungers, like the one pictured, to sell as part of a disabled people's enterprise project.


 “When I found out that my ICS placement would be on a disability rights project, I was pleased because I already have experience of advocating for the rights of people with disabilities in the UK. I was also daunted. Even in the UK, people with disabilities face marginalisation and discrimination – what would the situation be like in Ghana, where resources are much scarcer?

Thankfully, people with disabilities are not excluded to the extent that I feared. Our team mate, Paul, a lifelong Sandema resident with a physical disability, is a very popular young man. Everywhere he goes, people call out greetings to him! The same can be said for other members of the Disabled People’s Organisation (DPO) such as Mr Gilbert, DPO President and teacher, and Mr Yaw, an educationalist. As Mr Gilbert will tell you, disabled people do face significant hurdles in gaining employment and social acceptance, but he is living proof that disability is not an insurmountable barrier to leading a happy life in Sandema.

Daniel with Mr Gilbert, DPO President
Although I was pleased to discover that many people with disabilities are well-integrated into the community, I have been shocked by the la ck of support they receive from the State. In the UK, people with disabilities can access any specialist treatment or equipment (such as wheelchairs or crutches) they need for free under the National Health Service (NHS), as well as financial support to modify their homes, if necessary. With these basic needs catered for, UK disability activists are able to focus on campaigning for disability-friendly services and equality in the public sphere.

In Sandema, people with disabilities are still denied basic support and equipment. According to David Achuroa, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer at Presbyterian Community Based Rehabilitation (PCBR), Ghana’s National Health Insur ance Scheme (NHIS) is only there to ‘fix’ an isolated incident of illness, such as an episode of typhoid. ‘The concept of providing assistive devices or technologies to improve people’s day-to-day quality of life does not exist within the NHIS,’ says Achuroa. ‘People with disabilities must get any devices they need, such as a wheelchair, from charities.’

David Achuroa, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, PCBR
We face many challenges in delivering our project at PCBR – frequent power outages, budget constraints, and difficulty reaching our target beneficiaries – but I am optimistic that in raising awareness of disability rights at a grassroots level, we can contribute to a change in thinking in Ghana’s national institutions.”

By Daniel Agyei Mintah and Lauren Kelly


  1. Passion and commitment in volunteering

  2. Passion and commitment in volunteering

  3. Good job, guys... David Achuroa is a campus mate tho. And hey Dan, u are doing great wid dis work. More updates