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Life in a refugee camp as a teenage amputee: the story of Mouch, 17, from South Sudan


Rehabilitation | Ethiopia | PUBLISHED ON June 8th 2023
Mouch’s leg had to be amputated because of an infected snake bit. He lives in the Ngnuueyel refugee camp in Ethiopia.

Mouch’s leg had to be amputated because of an infected snake bit. He lives in the Ngnuueyel refugee camp in Ethiopia. | © HI

Mouch fled from South Sudan to Ethiopia to escape the war. After arriving in the refugee camp, his left leg was amputated due to an infection. Now supported by HI, Mouch tells his story.

Fleeing the war

Mouch was 17 years old when, in 2020, he arrived in the Nguenyyiel refugee camp, one of the two camps in which HI operates in the Gambella region of Ethiopia. He still lives there with his mother, his two sisters and his brother. Originally from South Sudan, Mouch and his family were forced to flee their country to escape the war, ethnic conflict and instability.

Amputation due to a snake bite

To reach Ethiopia, Mouch and his family had to spend five days on a boat. The living conditions on board were harrowing. The lack of food and water made the journey very difficult for Mouch.

Before embarking, he had been bitten by a snake. Unfortunately, there was nothing on the boat to treat the wound. It became seriously infected. Once in Ethiopia, Mouch’s left leg had to be amputated.

"The journey was so difficult, the hardest part was being hungry, but with the support of my family, I managed to get through."

A prosthesis to go back to school

Living in a refugee camp with a disability is very difficult because the infrastructure and facilities are not accessible. The absence of quality health care and support also makes life more complicated for people with disabilities, according to the young teenager.

HI teams began helping Mouch as soon as he arrived in the camp 3 years ago. In 2022, he received his prosthetic leg. Before he had his prosthesis, Mouch was much more restricted in his movements. This prevented him from seeing his friends and he was very lonely. He also had difficulty carrying out his daily tasks.

When asked why he needed a prosthesis, his answer was clear: he wanted to be able to stand on his own two feet again and walk like his friends. Thanks to his prosthesis, he felt as if he had got "his leg back". He was very happy.

His friends were surprised and very curious at first, and asked him lots of questions. Mouch had no problem answering them and explaining everything they needed to know about his new prosthesis. He is now able to take part in the same activities as his peers, and feels part of the community - just like everyone else his age.

In the camp, Mouch is attending school. He is a quiet but very committed student. He has lots of friends with whom he can spend time and play Dominos, his favourite game.

Mouch has shown perseverance and great courage, and today he is autonomous and full of hope for the future: “I want to go to university and become a doctor”.

In Gambella, HI is currently working in the Nguenyyiel and Jewi refugee camps, which are home to some 376,986 people (73,815 households). 67% of the refugees in Nguenyyiel camp are children (74,639), and 65% of the refugees in  Jewi camp are children. 99% of the refugees are from South Sudan. The project is funded by ECHO and currently has 830 beneficiaries.

HI’s interventions:

  • Physical and functional rehabilitation services
  • Stimulation therapy for children suffering from malnutrition
  • Mental health and psychosocial support services
  • Protection-related services
  • Training humanitarian actors in the inclusion of people with disabilities
  • Livelihood support for people with disabilities and their caregivers

In these camps, refugees are faced with food shortages, malnutrition, a lack of working water points and poor quality health services.

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