She was 18 years old when she was paralysed in a car crash, but Sophie Morgan, 30, has since gone onto become a successful journalist, travelling, living and working all around the world – all despite a serious disability.
With UK systems in place to aid her, and support and care provided by the NHS, Sophie swiftly realised that ‘life would not be as tragic as my disability had led me to believe’ – but unfortunately, not everyone in the world is so lucky.
The disabled journalist recently travelled from London to Ghana, where disability is considered a ‘curse’ and uncovered the horrifying realities for many people that live there.
After her life-changing accident at 18, Sophie had to transition into the world as a wheelchair user, and was often held back by negative attitudes.
But laws in place in the UK, as well as systems in place to empower disabled individuals, helped her integrate, gave her opportunities and spurred her on to become a successful journalist.
‘I was given a wheelchair by the NHS, medical equipment to manage my paralysis, ramps were provided to assist me into a university classrooms, a car provided by the government to make up for the lack of access on public transport and I was given a Living Allowance to go towards the many extra costs I faced as a wheelchair user,’ she admitted.
But there are places around the world where disabled individuals are not given the same care – but are instead misunderstood, shunned or even worse.
In November 2014, Sophie travelled to West Africa’s nation for two weeks, intent on discovering what life is like for Ghanaian people who have a disability.
The 30-year-old journalist quickly realised that first she had to understand the deep-rooted beliefs that exist in Ghanaian culture – comprised of mostly devout Christians who amalgamated traditional African tribal beliefs to shape their explanation of disability.
‘It soon dawned on me that for many people, disability was considered not a physical or mental impairment, but in fact a spiritual sickness or curse that could and should be healed by prayer,’ she explained of the baffling realisation.
Journeying all over the nation, Sophie came across alarming ‘prayer camps’ – filled with disabled men and women chained to the walls, waiting for healing.
People were shackled if they had psychosocial or physical disability, with the chains as part of their treatment, along with beating, starving and worse.
Torture was justified as healing the spiritual sickness that caused disability.
Sophie explained one particularly horrifying instance: ‘The girl, aged around 11, had tears, blood and snot streaming from her eyes and nose and she was screaming relentlessly, falling feebly to the ground.
‘Her mother was trying to hold her but was sobbing. When I got to them, the child ran at me; I’ve never seen anyone so scared, her eyes were wild, and all I could see in them was utter terror.
‘We were told that the woman who ran the camp had put ‘medicine’ in the child’s eyes, nose and ears and all I could understand was that it was because the child had a ‘curse’.
‘We later discovered the girl had epilepsy.’
Other shocking cases see practices of shackling the mentally ill to trees, depriving them of food or using electroshock therapy without anaesthesia.
The 30-year-old met with another wheelchair-user who had to resort to begging in traffic to buy food, to a 30-year-old man that had been locked away for 15 years by his family due to his disability.
Sophie soon discovered that the camps weren’t even the worst of it, with disabled children routinely sacrificed by witch doctors.
After speaking to one, Sophie was horrified by his explanation: ‘I met Nana Ababio who admitted to me that he ‘sees off’ disabled children for parents that don’t want to look after a disabled child.
‘The priest explained that the children are called Insuba, and that insuba are children of the river, so he would simply send them back to the river gods in a ritual that resulted in the poisoning and drowning of infants in rivers all across Ghana.’
Although Sophie’s report was handed in to The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva last year, she revealed that little had been done to help the plight of those suffering.
She added: ‘I have gone on to create a new life, one in which I feel deeply fulfilled and happy but having seen the conditions in which disabled people exist in Ghana, it’s impossible not to feel overwhelming guilt mixed with gratitude for my inexplicable luck.’
Source: Daily Mail