Mom´s love is so great that made her travel three months in the desert and ten hours in the sea to save her daughter, who suffers from autism
A Cameroonian mother achieves cross the desert and the sea to reach into Spain and starts an NGO to change the mentality to people with disabilities in Africa.
Twelve years ago, a star guided her from Cameroon, her homeland, through the desert for three months. The same light gave her strength to stay afloat 10 hours in the waters that separate Morocco from Ceuta. Her name is Alima Ngoutane, and the name of her star is Lamina. She is 14 years old and suffer a severe autism and an intellectual disability that reduces her age to three years. For her little girl, this mother did not hesitate to do everything in her power to obtain a medical and educational treatment appropriate for needs of her daughter.
When she arrived to Spain, Alima got a beacon of hope called Looking for Africa; an association that wants to improve the lives of disabled people in a continent that is “in the shadows”. In Africa disabled people are despised by the society who calls them “snake children”.
She had left behind the desert, Algeria, Morocco … Rabat is the last stop before the waiting camp where the mafia let you. “When it’s cold, you can’t cross the sea. When it’s time, the men are going to skip the fences and the women throw themselves into the waters of the strait,” recalls Alima, who today enjoys a comfortable Madrid terrace dressed with a traditional Cameroonian costume.
In Ceuta, she was received by the Civil Guard, who took her to the hospital and then they went to the Temporary Immigrant Shelter Center (CETI) during three months. “I arrived Spain thanks to the reception of the Spanish Commission for Assistance to the Refugee (CEAR). They took her on the ferry to the peninsula and from there to Fuencarral and the reception flats of Chamartín,” he says.
Gone was the best of his life, too, his daughter. “Having a child with these characteristics in Africa is not life, it is hard to accept it.” Society has made them us feel guilty. It’s common to leave these children, hide them from all over the world and families recommend leaving them in fields, plantations and on the shores of the sea, “says Alima in conversation with EL MUNDO.
Lamina, Alima’s daughter, arrived to Madrid after landing at the Charles de Gaulle Airport (Paris) followed by flight attendants. It was Lamina’s passion that gave her the opportunity. Lamina is athlete and medalist in the 100 meters, so the organizers of the competition helped the family to find themselves. For this, the savings of Alima, almost 3,000 euros, were necessary.
However, since her arrival, the economic and bureaucratic difficulties of the family have hampered the dream of this mother to see her daughter run. Unlike her family, the little girl has not got the residency papers yet.
Lamina receives public treatment but his case needs more specialized therapy and, in addiction to that, the irregular situation in the country doesn’t allow her to practice sports in a legal way. “It hurts me that I am not able to support my daughter in any competence. When she runs she is one more, she merges with the track and with the other runners,” says Alima. “We are trying to make Special Olympics a presence in Cameroon to get closer to the less receptive society,” she adds.
Since she was in Madrid, Lamina has been operated twice and she attends a special school although neurologists recommend another specialized therapy. “Public schools do what they can but it needs more because Lamina has a 68% of disability.” She depends on us for practically everything, at least it can walk on her own. Her days are reduced to go to the school and then she has to come back to home. She doesn’t have friends “sighs the mother.
His brother Moussa is seven-year-old and her little sister Ramatou is four-years-old. They complete the four pillars that support Lamina’s life, helping her to dress, wash, and whatever she needs.
“If she had received early attention in Camerun, maybe the Lamina situation would be different. She doesn’t know who her name is, she can recognize it but she can’t pronounce it. We can communicate by gestures”, explain Luc, her father.
“Our dream is that Lamina will be a recognized international athlete and serve as an example with her effort, to be a model for Africa,” her mother confides. The lives of disabled people in Cameroon are complicated. There aren’t enough means to attend disabled people. In fact, disabled people do not exist there, “they are not registered, they aren’t considered persons for the society,” she recalls.
Alima is Muslim and her husband, Luc, is Christian. Today they live in Fuenlabrada but, when they met in Cameroon, they were 13 and 16 years-old respectively, their relationship was frowned. “We married 20 years ago for tribal rituals against our religions,” they said. Cameroonian society sees her daughter as a punishment for their daring. When this mother looks back at Cameroon her eyes began to fill with tears. “They call them snake children and they are considered as a divine punishment for human error or witchcraft,” says Alima. “There, the medicine ignores the disability, there is no explanation or diagnosis.” People said me that I had failed Muslim law because I am married with a Christian and that is my punishment.
To have a child with a disability cause bad luck, poverty and an insult to man’s virility, explained Alima and Luc. “90% of parents leave home,” says Luc, adding that “having a special child in Africa is an affront to the men.” That is why “Looking for Africa” calls for athletes, recognizable male faces, to get involved to sensitize the group of African men to demonstrate that you can be a strong men an d to have a disabled child.
Therefore, Alima’s association try to change the mentality of the society in Africa. “It’s the project that I promised to carry out if I survived in the sea and in the desert,” recalls Alima. Nowadays, his initiative encompasses his hometown, Douala. “We can’t allow that in the 21st century we don’t have any of the advances of other Nations. Places where disabled people are embedded” Alima says.