DISABILITY IS EXPENSIVE

Diapers a basic need for the disabled

It is inaccessible to the people that need it the most.

In Summary
  • Incontinence is a sensitive condition that we prefer not to delve so much into.
  • Diapers are an integral part of our lives as disabled people. We need them to live quality and dignified lives.

Six years ago I was involved in a grisly road accident with four other people, three of whom died on the spot. I was fortunate to survive but with severe injuries to the spine that left me paralysed from the armpits downwards. The final picture from that accident is that I can no longer move my legs and have very limited movement in my arms.

Adjusting to this new life has been difficult and even though I have recovered from the post-accident trauma, managing my severe disability in a not so accommodating society remains a challenge that I have to face every day. All in all, my family has been valuable in trying moments by pushing me towards self-acceptance and determination.

From my experience, I would advise anyone who has suddenly been disabled to embrace the process of acceptance as soon as possible in order to discover their coping mechanisms for various situations.

Beyond overcoming the mental and psychological barriers through accepting one’s new identity of disability, there are other inescapable truths one has to come to terms with such as the societal structures that incapacitate your very existence as a person with a disability as would be seen in my case below.

Being paralysed from the armpits downwards essentially means that I lost control over everything below the chest region. I struggle with bowel and bladder movement—a condition known as incontinence, which is characterised by the inability to control bowel movement—one’s body basically operates at its own will and goes when it wants, in whichever way it pleases.

The cheapest packet of diapers costs around Sh850. This packet won’t last you a month, leave alone a fortnight. It goes for a week at best because inside each packet are 10 pieces. Depending on your body’s mood, one packet might even last five days. You can’t reuse these diapers so it’s one piece for a single use.

Incontinence is a sensitive condition that we prefer not to delve so much into. There is a certain level of stigma people who have trouble controlling their bowels are subjected to. We are expected to have an odour and a swarm of flies buzzing around us. But nobody in their right mind intentionally wants to be in a position where they repel others with their stench.

Our answer to incontinence is using diapers. Depending on the context, the word diaper has the ability to invoke different feelings. When you talk about diapers in relation to children, it is okay but when you mention adult diapers, the response is a bit lukewarm.

Diapers are an integral part of our lives as disabled people. We need them to live quality and dignified lives. I speak for my community when I say that diapers are very much a basic need—an expensive basic need that is inaccessible to the people that need it the most.

Have you ever heard the phrase ‘disability is expensive’? Well, it is. The lives of most people flip upside down when they get disabilities. Financially, hospital bills and medication will easily run monetary rivers dry. Then comes the possible lifetime commitment to purchasing diapers.

The cheapest packet of diapers costs around Sh850. This packet won’t last you a month, leave alone a fortnight. It goes for a week at best because inside each packet are 10 pieces. Depending on your body’s mood, one packet might even last five days. You can’t reuse these diapers so it’s one piece for a single use.

I get my diapers from a supermarket that’s about 30 minutes’ drive away every week. Nearby shops either overprice the brand of adult diapers that doesn’t react with my skin by Sh100 to Sh950 or don’t stock them at all.

As an unemployed youth, whose university education was cut short by severe disability, I find it hard to afford Sh4,000 every month for adult diapers alone without factoring in the cost for urine bags and catheters that I can’t go without. I strongly feel that the National Hospital Insurance Fund should cater for these costs because they are medical-related.