Nine-year-old Kennedy can walk on his own like a grown-up. Uganda, June 2023. | © Crolle Agency / HI
Kennedy has cerebral palsy. After years of being unable to stand or walk, orthoses and physiotherapy have allowed him to make spectacular progress.
Kennedy is a little boy with cerebral palsy from South Sudan. He and his family sought refuge in Uganda, where he was taken into HI’s care in 2020. HI has since provided him with orthoses and physiotherapy sessions. Three years later, the courage and determination of this little boy have enabled him to face up to his greatest challenge: he can now walk on his own.
In 2016, Kennedy was just nine months old when his family fled the conflict in South Sudan. Arriving in Uganda, they settled in the Rhino refugee camp in the Arua district in the north-west of the country. Kennedy lives there with his mother and two other children.
Kennedy had never had physiotherapy before. Although he could eat, drink and hear relatively easily, he could not speak or walk. Furthermore, his dexterity was limited and holding small objects was a real struggle for him.
“It was very difficult for me,” said his mother, Esther Ariye. “For four years, I had to carry Kennedy on my back all the time. He couldn’t stand on his own and didn’t even move around on all fours.”
Kennedy was identified by community volunteers in February 2020. After an assessment, HI’s teams enrolled him on the 3D Petra project, a revolutionary project that uses 3D-printing technology to produce custom-made orthoses and prostheses. The little boy was given bilateral dynamic orthoses for his ankles and feet.
In 2021, thanks to his orthoses and physiotherapy sessions with Paul Lokiru, a physiotherapist with HI, Kennedy was able to stand. He could move around with a walker and play with the other children. To ensure that the boy’s treatment continued, Paul taught Esther some physiotherapy exercises that she could do at home with her son.
“By passing on this knowledge to the family, we allow continuity of service even when we’re not there, because our intervention area is vast and we can’t drop by very often. This is essential for follow-up – Kennedy is a prime example. When I came back to see him a few months ago, I noticed that he could walk on his own without needing his walker,” said Paul Lokiru.
Today, Kennedy can walk on his own without help. It’s a huge success for this little boy! He can also express himself, which allows him to communicate with his family and friends.
“Before, Kennedy couldn’t hold anything in his hands. He is now able to feed himself, stand, walk around and play with his neighbours. That makes me so happy! At the time, I spent many days and nights biting my nails worrying about him but I now know that all my children are happy,” said Esther with a smile.
Kennedy has made tremendous progress, but he and his family do not intend to stop just yet. He must now work on his posture and learn to walk faster. As he grows, his orthoses will have to be replaced to adapt to his changing body shape. He will also have to go to school so that he can study.
“I would like Kennedy to go to a special school where they’ll take good care of him. It would still be too difficult for me to take him to and from school every day,” said Esther.
Kennedy walks and plays football with his friends. In this refugee camp, with its extreme levels of poverty, hope is reborn every second. Children who don’t even have a ball to play football with twist plastic bags together to make their own ball. Kennedy is nurturing his dreams for the future: when he grows up, he will walk, run, and build houses.
The 3D Petra and rehabilitation project has been running in the Rhino, Omugo and Imvepi camps since July 2021. It uses innovative 3D-printing technology to provide orthopaedic fittings and rehabilitation services for the refugees who live in these camps. The project is being run in partnership with CoRSU and Arua Hospital.