The sorry story of disabled outcast Joseph Atanga


Joseph Atanga, a native of Sirigu in the upper east region has never been out beyond the confines of his home let alone socialized with his peers for his twenty-four years of life.

Joseph was born with serious physical disabilities and was labeled a ‘spirit child’ by members of the community who demanded that he be killed. 

His family’s reluctance to have him killed has resulted in their near-total ostracization in the community as most members of the community want nothing to do with them.

Joseph Atanga was born with serious physical disabilities. His limbs are paralyzed and stiff, making it impossible for him do anything on his own. He is able to understand when he is spoken to but his speak to him but it is difficult to make out what he says in return.

Joseph’s hands are stiff and almost permanently bent towards his chest. Both his legs are paralyzed; stiff and crossing each other in an X formation. These features suggest that Joseph may be suffering from a condition known as cerebral palsy.

Watching Joseph try to move himself is a pitiful sight to behold.  He lays his whole body on the ground and manages to rock himself to one side, his legs providing support and one side of his face on the ground.


This way, he is able to roll himself over in about 3 minutes. He repeats the process over and over till he gets where he wants to go. 

Poor Joseph urinates and defecates on himself if no one is around to help him out and sometimes does not bathe or brush his teeth for months.

Joseph has been denied his right to education and his right to socialization, due to this condition.  Except for a few visits to the hospital when he was an infant, he has never been out of his home in the 24 years of his life.

Not many people in the area want to socialize with Joseph and his family because some superstitious members of the community believe Joseph is a spirit.

Isaac Atanga, Joseph’s older brother, explains that medicine men accused their mother of having in the past, bathed in a certain river during her menses. It was forbidden to do so in that river so “they sent this my brother to her to destroy the family”, he said. “They wanted us to do something about him, eliminate him, but me, I don’t believe in such things and my father when he was alive, did not believe in such things”, Isaac added.

Isaac thinks that sending Joseph to a special school will help but they do not have the money.

Until fate smiles on them, Joseph and his three brothers will continue live as outcasts in their little mud house, living from hand to mouth. 

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