The brutal 11-year old war in Sierra Leone wrecked tremendous havoc on the socio-economic life of the country and its citizens.
Some people have recovered from the ashes of the war whilst many others never recovered and still yet some live their lives permanently as a relic of the barbarism that notarized the war-”The Amputees.”
This category of people had their limbs hacked off from their bodies while they looked on, screaming in anguish and agony.
The physical wounds are all healed up now even for Kadiatu Fofanah who had both limbs amputated by rebels during the January 6 invasion of Freetown.
However the will to live with such disability and survive in this country which ranks the last in the UN Human development Index, with the highest Infant Mortality rate in the world and a country where the largest proportion of its citizens live on less than a dollar a day, is the biggest challenge Kadiatu and her compatriots are faced with.
Awoko sat with Kadiatu Fofanah who related her story of survival…
“After I was discharged from the hospital I went to live at my house at Ross Road, things were very difficult, I guess everybody was recovering from the war one way or the other; so we received no help. It was so hard for me especially when I have lost both legs.
Sometimes we went to bed with an empty stomach and no hope for any meal to start the next day. The little money my husband was scouring out could not feed my family of eleven so I had to find a way to help with our sustenance.
You know what I did? I started begging out in the streets. My God, I could not imagine I would be reduced to such a state and condition; I actually went out begging for complete three to four months.
My very first day out was the most embarrassing experience for me, I was covered with shame and hopelessness, one of my sons carried me to PZ (the centre of town) and I just sat there with a plate displayed in front of me, my head bowed and water streaming down my eyes, I kept asking myself, is this the life I am finally reduced to, will I die a beggar, how could I provide for my nine children? I never found any answers to these questions, before the clanging of coins from sympathizers woke me up from my reverie.
People were shocked by my sight and were very sympathetic, others had known me before so all these people gave me money.
It was not so bad like before, though not better but I had found a new way of getting my living. As the days go by my embarrassment waned, all I was looking forward to, was taking care of my family and myself, the Lebanese shops, Siaka Stevens Street, Mosques and Churches became my offices where I expect my daily wages which sometimes not only came in cash but clothes and foodstuffs.
One day my Nigerian neighbor told me that I should go to the Amputee and war wounded camp at Aberdeen Road because according to him that was where all those who were affected by the war were staying and that they were receiving help from the government and other humanitarian NGOs.
When I came back home I told my husband this but he refused to follow me to the camp, but agreed that I could go to the camp and see if there is any good there.
It was not easy to get accommodation at the camp but finally with the help of my doctor and one MSF doctor at the camp I was able to get a booth.
My husband and the children eventually moved to the camp with me. Things became a lot better; there were all sorts of donations from all sorts of humanitarian organizations almost on a daily basis. We were given foodstuffs, clothing and even cash; WFP was supplying us with food also.
Things were relatively good for us.
Red Cross decided to train us amputees in various skills so we could start earning our living for ourselves, since they say they will not continue to support us forever.
Considering my incapability, i decided to learn petty trading. Red Cross then bought me Onions, Pepper, maggi, and some other food stuffs and I set off on a new career.
I was selling at the Aberdeen road market and the proceeds from my wares were helping me greatly.
Shortly after, Cause Canada initiated the same training and this time I was persuaded to learn how to make soap.
Things were generally good in the camp, we could not ask for better, until some of us were taken from the camp by Norwegians who had built a two room bedroom flat at Grafton.
We were so happy at least we were going to get a house for ourselves!
The houses were finally complete