Sudan: "I wouldn’t let the loss of my leg define my family’s future" - Yaquob

27 August 2018
Sudan: "I wouldn’t let the loss of my leg define my family’s future" - Yaquob
Being fitted with a prosthetic leg improved Yaqoub’s mobility and ensured greater social inclusion which gave him the confidence to start a business. CC BY-NC-ND / ICRC

"Losing everything also gave me a new perspective on what's important in life. It got me thinking more about family, less about material things"

"I used to be a daily worker. I would do everything from selling vegetables in the local market to building huts. My arms and legs were very strong and under the blazing sun, I could work long hours. The harder I worked, the more money I would bring home to my family. All this changed in just one day.''

The story of Yaqoub Mohammed reflects the experiences of many of those who are affected by armed conflict, which is often characterized by violence, death and displacement. Families continue to suffer and struggle to survive the consequences long after such conflicts are over, and in doing so, demonstrate extraordinary ability to bend but not break.

Recalling his own experiences, Yaqoub says he woke up one morning to the sound of gunshots. "I quickly gathered my wife and children around me and we tried to escape from it all. In the process, I was shot in my left leg.''

He continues. "We did escape alright, but for years, I was unable to work because I could not walk and became dependent on others. My five children dropped out of school. I had to ask my eldest son to go to Khartoum to try to find work and help support the family. Working at a bakery in the capital, he was able to send some money to help feed us, but it was barely enough and I still could not afford to send them back to school.''

Yaqoub found new hope and opportunity for his family through the physical rehabilitation programme and cash assistance project of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). He explains that he had never seen an artificial limb before and was excited to travel to Nyala, where the ICRC runs a physical rehabilitation program. ''You can imagine how I felt when I was able to get my first prosthetic leg in 2017... it was like the answer to a dream I never dared to even dream!''

The ICRC team in the area later visited Yaqoub to see how it could help him improve his economic situation. Being fitted with a prosthetic leg no doubt improved Yaqoub's mobility and ensured greater social inclusion which gave him the confidence to start a business. "I told them I just needed five sacks of charcoal to start, and I got it," he said, referring to his conversation with the ICRC team.

"Within just a few months, my four sacks of charcoal grew to 20 and I was able to put my kids back to school. I also built more huts for my family, and I am even now able to save some money for the future.''

Yaqoub's story not only illustrates that people with disabilities – like those without such limitations – have dreams and aspirations, but also reveals the daily struggles and life challenges that confront them. These include negative attitudes towards them by society and the lack of self-confidence this generates. Furthermore, accessing facilities such as roads, transportation, communication or other social systems, services and infrastructure become daunting.

Throughout the years, many families affected by conflict beat the odds and survive, thanks to concerted efforts from governments, various partners, and donor investment designed to build resilience against a number of factors, including disabilities. In this case, Yaqoub's situation was reversed positively when a cash assistance project introduced by the ICRC gave him and his family renewed hope and opportunity.

Since 2001, the ICRC has been implementing microeconomic initiatives (MEIs) for vulnerable populations in dozens of countries around the world. The income-generating program takes a bottom-up approach and can be either vocational training, productive grants, microcredit loans, or a combination of all three, allowing beneficiaries to personally identify and design the help they receive.