Ama Serwah, aka sister Ama, is a single mother of two children: Lydia aged nine, and six-year-old Thomas who has cerebral palsy.
She was happily married until the third year after the birth of her son when her husband jilted the family because of the boy’s disability.
The moment Thomas was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Ama’s marriage turned sour, and eventually, her once loving husband abandoned her and her two children.
Sister Ama has since been struggling to take care of her children, occasionally leaving them to go on streets to sell watermelon, a trade she picked up as a means of income to support the family.
Through the benevolence of neighbours, loans, and her petty trading in watermelon, she sent Thomas to the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital for weekly physiotherapy sessions.
The physiotherapy sessions showed promising results, albeit its very slow progress. Unfortunately, the family’s condition became worse as a result of the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country and subsequent actions taken to help fight the outbreak.
The President’s announcement of a lockdown, pursuant to the powers granted him as President of the Republic, under the Imposition of Restrictions Act, 2020 (Act 1012) on March 16, 2020, threw the mother into a state of uncertainty as she wasn’t sure how she was going to fend for her family because her source of income will be curtailed due to the lockdown.
The President mentioned that persons living in Accra, Kumasi, Kasoa and its environs, could go out to get essential items such as food, medicine, water, use public toilet facilities, however as much as possible, everyone must stay at home.
This meant that Sister Ama who lives in Kasoa could not go out to sell her watermelons. It also meant the regular physiotherapy session for Thomas at Korle Bu had to be postponed until further notice.
Six days into the lockdown, Thomas got sick. Right from the beginning Ama was convinced it was malaria by recognizing the main symptoms.
However, she could not send Thomas to the hospital due to a deficit of money as she had not gone out over a period of a week to sell her watermelon from which she earns something little to feed her two children. Ama did her best not to break the President’s order so she stayed at home.
Thomas’ National Health Insurance card also expired in January 2020, but his mother could not renew it prior to the lockdown due to her financial challenges.
Sister Ama tried to get first aid from some co-tenants to administer to Thomas but two days later, Thomas’s condition got worst. Ama became very stressed and the contemplation to allow her son to die through that process began to linger on her mind.
Although Sister Ama was not earning that much from selling the melons, at this time she realized the vital support her petty trade gave to their survival. Besides, neighbors who would normally give her some gifts or even short-term loans could no longer do so as the effects of the lockdown began to hit everyone.
She could not also access basic supplies from her Municipal Assembly or Emergency Relief Agencies. Left with no option, Sister Ama dared her fear from heavy military and police patrols and made her way to the house of Thomas’ father to demand support for the child’s medical care.
The ex-husband gave her a little support he claimed was all he could offer at the time because he has not been working as a result of the lockdown in the Greater Accra region.
The money she received could hardly pay for medical bills, however, she returned home with it to cater for the little it could take care of.
With loan support, she got from a co-tenant, and the money she received from her ex-husband, she managed the send Thomas to a nearby private clinic for the needed medical care. A week later, her son was fully recovered from the disease.
Reflecting on her stressful ordeal in the past weeks, Sister Ama quickly organized her children and traveled back to her parents in the Ahafo Region after the lockdown.
Back at home, Ama does not have an immediate chance to engage in trading to earn income to cater for her children’s needs, due to strong stigmatization against parents of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities including cerebral palsy. Thomas is also unlikely to find a physiotherapy service in the Ahafo Region which will regress his slow progress from what he had been receiving at Korle Bu.
Sister Ama reports how she got encouragement from a support group she joined at Inclusion Ghana in Accra.
She wishes to return soon to Accra for the sake of Thomas’ physiotherapy sessions, however, her experiences during the lockdown have put an indelible fear in her.
Her fears require strong reassurance of social protection and emergency relief support for vulnerable groups in Ghana during times of humanitarian emergencies, to overcome the fear and return to the city where she has high hopes for improvement in Thomas’ current condition through physiotherapy.
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