Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sierra Leone: The story of Salimatu Thoronka

Salimatu Thoronka had both her legs amputated by rebels but is now learning to become a breadwinner

Salimatu Thoronka had both her legs cut off by rebels in 1999 when she was 19 years old. She is now training to become a seamstress in Makeni in a programme for handicapped women, supported by the Don Carlo Gnocchi Foundation. This is her story.

“My father died because of me. In 1999 the rebels advanced to Makeni so he fled with me and my brother to the safety of Freetown. But the rebels quickly advanced to Freetown also, so my father decided we would be safer back in Makeni.

“We were stopped at a rebel checkpoint in the centre of Freetown at Liverpool Street. The rebels interrogated him for a while then said he could go but that he should leave me behind.

“He refused and so they shot him dead.

“My brother ran and I was left standing there alone. One rebel said I should be killed also because I might try to run also. But another one said he had a better solution and so he took a machete and chopped off my legs.

“I don’t really know what happened next as I was unconscious. All I remember is being in the house of a stranger with my brother next to me. They then took me to a hospital.

“I had several operations and was eventually given artificial limbs.

“Nowadays it doesn’t hurt when I walk but if I try to go far I feel like I will fall down. I was not well for a long time and I still don’t feel great. Some days I wake up and feel normal again but then I try to get up and remember that I have no legs.

“I have not seen the rebels who did this to me. I don’t care if they are punished or not. God will decide what will happen to them.

“But what happened to me though after I lost my legs was not very fair. I went back to Makeni voluntarily while other people who had been amputated in Freetown stayed there until they got assistance.

“When I went to ask for assistance I was told it is too late.

“But in 2006 I was offered free training here to become a professional seamstress. Once the training is over I will get a starter kit which will include a sewing machine.

“Then I will be able to become a breadwinner and support my family. I have given birth to four children since losing my legs. I currently live with them at my mother’s place.”

Published with the permission of IRIN
Disclaimer: This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or Mike Hitchen Consulting
Photo: Copyright