Cape Verde Mobility Consignment

Oliver KennettCase Studies

The tale of how one woman included mobility equipment when packing for her new life in Cape Verde

Africa provides some of the most spectacular landscapes in the world, from blinding white deserts, to lush Savannah, to deep mysterious forest. Biologically and geographically, it is a fascinating continent however, when it comes to providing aid to some of its least fortunate citizens, such wonders can become the very elements that preclude them from suitable mobility equipment.
Cape Verde lies off the West coast of Senegal, the islands of which rely on an infrequent flying hospital. Julie Walmsley who moved to Boa Vista, Cape Verde full time in 2016, before which she spent five months of each year there with her partner, noticed a profound lack in mobility equipment for people with physical disabilities amongst its 12,000 inhabitants.

The local health centre provides basic medical assistance for expectant mothers and conditions that require more immediate treatment such as fevers. Anything more serious, and the patient has to be flown out to receive treatment which can be very expensive without health insurance. The centre also does not provide ongoing rehabilitation and equipment to people with physical disabilities.

“When I knew I was going to be sending a container to furnish a house,” Julie writes, “I knew I would not need all the space for furnishings and so had the idea to bring mobility equipment and wheelchairs for the older population”.

Julie asked Legs4Africa for equipment. “Absolutely, yes” says Phil Tunstall, head of operations. “At that time we were collecting all mobility equipment, a scheme which we’ve now closed to focus on just prosthetic legs. This was a great opportunity to get equipment out to somewhere we hadn’t yet reached.

So, in the autumn of 2016, there was not only Julie’s possessions in the shipping container bound for Boa Vista, but also 35 Zimmer Frames, 7 Wheelchairs, 2 Kids Wheelchairs, 1 Wheeled walker and 10 Orthotic splints. Despite this shipment being humanitarian aid, Julie still faced problems with port officials:

“Unloading it was a real pain. Even though the port authorities knew I was distributing the items free within the community, they still forced me to pay tax for bringing the items into the country. Sometimes giving equipment to people was difficult too, Cape verdiens are a fiercely proud and independent people who get by with the minimum of support from anyone except their family, and it took a lot of persuasion by friends and family before people took something, even though it might improve their quality of life.”

Julie’s mission to help people with physical disabilities on Cape Verde has been a resounding success. Most, if not all people who require support equipment now have it. Julie’s next goal is to assist people in similar situations on the smaller islands in the archipelago.

“Thanks so much to Phil and his team. It is unbelievable that all this equipment used only once is discarded. This wasteful attitude is extremely outdated in the current world climate, but at least there are thoughtful organisations like Legs4Africa who are putting it to good use in countries where people would don’t have easy access to such vital equipment.”