Photo credit: DiasporaEngager (

With nowhere to go after this year’s floods, Divine, like thousands of others, moved her family into the Sobel site for internally displaced persons (IDPs) that is co-managed by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Burundi’s Ministry of Solidarity.

At the site, IOM provides shelter and sanitary facilities, kits containing household items, psychosocial support, and protection assistance to tens of thousands of vulnerable residents displaced by floods.

Nevertheless, life in Sobel, which is situated on the outskirts of the capital, Bujumbura, has not been without its difficulties. Emmanuel experiences challenges with his speech and movement; a life in poverty means that the adolescent has never been diagnosed or treated by a doctor. Instead, he is determined to be dependent and crawls resolutely to wherever he has to go.

However, Divine has to assist him in certain areas including going to the toilet, an act she is shunned for. “I am stigmatized by my neighbours for carrying Emmanuel to the toilets because they say I am dirty [for helping him],” says Divine.

Emmanuel’s situation represents the plight persons with disabilities encounter in the face of displacement. In conflict and emergency contexts around the world, they are amongst the most marginalized groups. Their unique protection concerns make them more vulnerable to abuse and during disasters their mortality rate is higher than the average affected population.

“In Burundian culture, persons with disabilities can be brushed aside by society and stigmatized as cursed. Entire families can be shunned for raising a disabled child as a result,” says IOM Burundi psychologist Beatrice Nimbona.

In practice, that stigma means that few people visit Divine’s tent. “It hurts me inside when they do that, but I have never regretted helping Emmanuel,” she says adamantly.

However, in recent months the pressure of losing her livelihood and of being shunned by neighbours led to a drastic decline in Divine’s mental health and she began to develop suicidal thoughts. “I was at a point of deep suffering, so I sought out psychological support from IOM,” she says.

Source of original article: International Organization for Migration (
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