Fear, taboos, cultural beliefs and fatalism result in the stigmatisation and isolation of people with disabilities in Togo. Handicap International offers them support and is committed to changing people’s attitudes towards disability.
© J-J. Bernard / Handicap International
In Togo, 58.7% of the population lives below the poverty threshold. The number of people with disabilities is estimated at around 620,000, and 10% of these are thought to require orthopaedic fitting.
Many communities believe that people with disabilities are the victims of a curse, that someone cast a spell on them, or that they are being punished for their parents’ disrespect for traditions or social rules of their community. These perceptions often lead parents of disabled children to hide them from public view. Excluded from playing with other children, from attending school and other sources of learning, children with disabilities often grow up to be equally marginalised adults. With the collaboration of a number of partners, in both the community and government sectors, Handicap International is working to change this situation.
Handicap International is committed to promoting the social inclusion of people with disabilities by proposing practical solutions in a range of areas: orthopaedic fitting and rehabilitation services, training for professionals, healthcare (in particular for mothers, babies and school-age children), inclusive education, disability awareness at community level, advocacy campaigns and initiatives to champion the rights of people with disabilities. It is essential to get across the idea that people with disabilities are citizens in their own right and capable of playing an active role in society.
Finally, Handicap International is running a pilot project in Togo aimed at improving the status of prisoners, both in prison and when they return to their families. The organisation wants to highlight the negative impact of incarceration on prisoners’ mental health. The aim is to put forward solutions to encourage greater consideration of this issue both by prison administration staff and all relevant stakeholders (prisoners’ families, communities, mental health clinics etc.).
Since 1991, Togo has been undergoing a growing economic crisis and the absence of political change over the past 40 years has resulted in drastic cuts in international aid. Today, the country is showing signs of recovery.
The country’s economic indicators deteriorated still further following the death of the former president, after the contested elections in 2005. However, after legislative elections in 2007 which were accepted as free and fair by the international community, Togo began to recover from an unprecedented social and political crisis that had endured for 19 years. International cooperation, which had been blocked due to the lack of democracy, was resumed. In March 2010, the presidential elections were held without incident, resulting in a victory for the sitting president.
Since then, Togo’s economy has returned to growth; as yet however, this has been slow to impact positively on the living conditions of the Togolese people. The country is ranked 166th out of 187 countries worldwide on the Human Development Index (2014 UNDP).