Togo: from disability to mobility

06-12-2012 Feature

Whether disabled as a result of a road-traffic accident or marked by polio or diabetes, three men and one woman, like hundreds of Togolese people, have had to fight to regain their dignity and to hold their heads high. People living with disabilities face the same, painful challenge: how can they overcome limited resources to regain their mobility?

Since 2003, the ICRC's Special Fund for the Disabled has been supporting physical rehabilitation services in Togo. This includes donating equipment and orthopaedic components and training staff who work in orthotic centres. Thanks to this support, more than 7,000 patients have benefited from rehabilitation services in Lomé, whether by being fitted for an artificial limb or orthotic device, receiving help with their devices from specialist technicians, or undergoing rehabilitation.


Kokou Sotodji, 57, microfinance officer. Married and a father of five 

"On 24 June 2010, I had a serious motorcycle accident as I was travelling to the city of Anécho, 45 km to the east of Lomé. I was in a coma for 10 days. When I regained consciousness, the pain in my hip and especially my left leg was excruciating. I couldn't bring my knees together any more. I spent six months in hospital, with no improvement. The pain was still just as bad. In the end, the doctors at Lomé university hospital decided to refer me to the national orthotic centre. There, I had four months of rehabilitation before they fitted splints to my left leg. To begin with, I had to use two crutches. Then I reduced it to one as my rehabilitation sessions continued. But I struggled to cover the cost of the treatment.

In 2011 I was asked if prosthetic-orthotic technicians could practise on me as part of a training course organized by the Special Fund for the Disabled and the national orthotic centre. I took part in two such courses (in 2011 and 2012), which gave me an opportunity to get my splints replaced.

I am now continuing my rehabilitation because I still experience pain in my left leg and knee. But life has got back to normal and I have rediscovered the pleasure of walking without crutches. I can even do some exercise and ride my motorcycle again, although I can't yet play football like I used to."


 Kokou Dougblo, 45, mobile phone repairer

"One morning, when I was about one year old, my mother noticed that I could no longer stand up. At hospital they diagnosed me with polio. But it wasn't until the age of 8 that my mother took me to Korlebu hospital in Accra, Ghana, where they fitted me with my first orthotic device. After that, my mother made sure that it was replaced several times. When she retired 15 years ago, however, she was no longer able to help me pay to get my device replaced. In 2011 my device needed replacing and I was told that it would cost me 181,000 CFA francs (around 280 euros). But I couldn't afford that. In October 2012 I asked a friend to help me find a stable job in order to earn enough to replace my device. My friend put me in touch with the Special Fund for the Disabled, which works with associations that help people with disabilities. They were sympathetic to my situation and got me involved in a training course for prosthetic-orthotic technicians. At the end of the course, I was given a new device that had been manufactured by the participants.

So after struggling for 15 years to raise the means to buy a new device, I finally have one that is lighter and allows me to walk more easily than before."

Adzo Blifou, 28. Married and a mother of two, unemployed

"When I was around 5, I got polio. I was fitted with an orthotic device at the national orthotic centre. It was changed three times before I had to stop wearing it because my mother, who was my only source of support, could no longer afford to buy me a new one. So I had to lift my disabled leg with my hand every time I took a step. When I was 20, my mother promised me that she would fight to get me a new device, even if it meant going to social services. Sadly, she died shortly after.

In 2012, during a free consultation at the national orthotic centre, I was told that I could get a device fitted for 50,000 CFA francs (around 77 euros). But I couldn't afford that, since I didn't have a job and my husband – a self-employed carpenter – couldn't help me either. Then someone suggested that I get in touch with the Special Fund for the Disabled, which I hadn't heard of. They suggested that I volunteer have to prosthetic-orthotic technicians practise on me as part of their training, which would enable me to obtain a new device for free.

That's how I ended up with this wonderful contraption that I'm sporting today. I can get around much more easily now, because it's light and very handy."



André Davi-Kpomassi, 38, former accountant. A father of six and a widower

"I'm diabetic. One day, I got a cut on the big toe of my right foot. The wound became infected and I was in hospital for three months. They ended up having to amputate my right leg in June 2009. Prior to that, I had been working in a company as an accountant.

My life fell apart overnight. I lost my job and couldn't afford an artificial leg. But I was able to have rehabilitation at the national orthotic centre. My wife, who was my main source of support, passed away in November 2010, which was another huge blow to my morale. I withdrew into myself, abandoning the rehabilitation. I only went back a year later. With the assistance of the Special Fund for the Disabled, I was then able to get an artificial leg from the national orthotic centre.

The new leg has restored my zest for life. After my leg was amputated, I gave away all my trousers to my brothers and friends. I was uncomfortable in anything except baggy bermuda shorts. Now I can wear trousers again, I walk almost normally and I can sweep my own room. You see, I feel as if I've been given a new lease of life."