Mangochi, Malawi … Mangochi is located near the southern end of Lake Malawi. Because of its strategic location it serves as a major crossroads for east-west travel from Malawi to Mozambique and north-south travel in Malawi. Its population has grown from 3,341 in 1977 to well over 50,000 today.
However, just because one lives in a location where travel is easy does not make it available for everyone. This is true of Lucy Debe who suffers from epilepsy. While it is often not talked about, and in many African nations, considered to have an association with evil spirits, epilepsy is the fourth most common neurological disorder in the world. It can affect people at any age and has no cure. While a great deal can be accomplished if the disease is treated early, the lack of basic care, and the long distance for people to travel to healthcare in Malawi leaves may with serious cases of epilepsy because of a lack of treatment. Again, Lucy Debe is one of the victims of this dread disease and has faced a lack of care.
Lucy was born in 2001 in Kaluma village in the Malawi district of Mangochi. Her parents helped her but in time they realized her left leg was smaller than the right one, and months later she developed epilepsy. The family went for medical help. It did not end their problems.
In her early teens Lucy suffered seizures and problems with burns she acquired from cooking fires.
For many suffering from epilepsy there is a degree of community stigmatization. This took place not only with Lucy but also with her entire family. Then the Center for Disability and Elderly Affairs stepped in to help. Their working relationship brought Action for Progress.
“Whenever we were traveling or going to church services, we carried her on our backs or if we had enough money, we would hire a taxi. This however meant less food on the table,” said Adija Asamu, Lucy’s mother. “Now we don’t have to decide between food and mobility. She can peddle wherever she goes. Action for Progress has placed a shelter of love over us.”
It is not hard to see what happiness looks like when one sees the excitement on the face of young Lucy, while peddling her mobility unit.