It is often easy to get swamped by numbers, however many thousand legs, how ever many lives changed, and sometimes it is important to be reminded of the actual people that Legs4Africa and it’s supporters are helping. In 2016, a team from the charity visited the Gambia to meet members of the Gambian Amputee Association, an initiative set up earlier in the year to give support to amputees and to work for their own betterment.
As an amputee charity, we are constantly telling readers about just how many amputees there are in low income African countries and no case highlights this better than Muhammad and Ebrahim Sillar, both of whom have been amputated for completely different reasons.
Muhammad is 17 and lost his leg after standing on a broken bottle. The wound became infected and he was shocked to discover that the leg had to be amputated. It is a harsh reminder that in low income countries with restricted access to medicine that we, in Europe take for granted, something as simple as a cut can become life threatening if not treated quickly.
Though Muhammad’s disability hasn’t slowed him down. He rides his bike to school every day where he stays on for extra classes. He is taking every opportunity he can to learn as he knows that the government funding for his education will soon dry up and is looking for a scholarship so that he may continue his education to pursue his goal of becoming a medical doctor.
Ebrahim, Muhammad’s father, is 47. He lost his leg during a building accident meaning he has moved into a supervisor’s role on the building site. When not at school or work, the father and son study the Quran.
Both men possess a strong drive. After such an accident as Ebrahim’s it is rare to remain in work and as for Muhammad, his ambition and determination are as strong as ever.
Muhammad and Ebrahim’s situation may be a strange one, with both father and son having lost a leg, and yet, they both have ordinary lives, if not extraordinary in the case of Muhammad.
More important than mobility aids, is attitude and support. On a larger scale, the Gambian Amputee Association helps amputees by giving them a voice, encouraging one another and proving that, though it isn’t easy, adapting to life as an amputee is quite possible.
It is not only policy and legislation which needs to be examined in countries such as The Gambia, but also perception of disability. When society sees that people with a perceived disability are doing everything that able bodied people are doing, and sometimes better, it serves to not only show that people with disabilities are capable, but also inspires other disabled people to think big, to understand that they might not be quite as limited as they first believed.