In areas of Africa, deeply ingrained beliefs and a lack of education about disabilities perpetuates the illegal but prevalent practice of killing children born with disabilities. Termed “mercy killing,” this action is often a result of cultural and social pressures, including the mother being shunned by her husband, family and/or community after the child’s birth—a tragically common occurrence. Even disabled infants who survive into childhood are at risk of enduring long-term abuse, neglect and inadequate care, either from their own families or at institutions.
Witnessing the inhumane treatment of disabled children firsthand as a sociology student at Uganda’s Bugema University, Ronald Sekitoleko decided to intervene. He founded Mdogo Disabled Children’s Foundation (originally called Hope Always International) in 2011 with the goal of improving the lives of children with disabilities throughout Africa. The organization provides essential needs for severely disabled children, including nutritious meals, shelter, medical care and rehabilitation. In addition to the basics, the nonprofit also offers education, vocational skills training, recreation, economic empowerment, advocacy and more for children and their families.
Currently, the Mdogo Disabled Children’s Foundation is focusing on building centers to care for children in need. Construction is already underway on the Center for Uganda Severely Disabled Children, which is being built on Sekitoleko’s family property in the Nakaseke District of Uganda. As of September 2023, the site provides care for about 20 children and their immediate families, a number that Sekitoleko aims to grow to approximately 300 over the next few years.
Sekitoleko cites funding as the greatest challenge to his organization’s growth, as his team works to construct the center in Nakaseke and care for its residents. His longer-term goal is to expand the reach of Mdogo Disabled Children’s Foundation beyond Uganda, in order to improve the lives of disabled children across the continent of Africa.
To learn more and/or contribute to this cause, please visit the Mdogo Disabled Children’s Foundation page at HSI.