Rahma Haruna is a bright, happy girl, despite suffering from a mystery condition that stopped her arms and legs developing properly – leaving her practically limbless, in constant pain and having to be carried around in a plastic bowl.
The 19-year-old, from Kano, Nigeria, was born a healthy baby but when she turned six months old her growth came to a sudden halt and she stopped hitting key development milestones. Her mother, Fadi, says: ‘From six months when she learnt how to sit, that was when it began. She didn’t learn how to crawl. She started with a fever and that was it. Then stomach pains. Then her body parts like hands and legs. She cannot use any if the ache strikes.’
Rahma’s family do their best to provide her with a fulfilling life and transport her around the village in a plastic bowl.
‘They help me a lot,’ says Rahma. ‘They give me anything I need.’
She is particularly close to her 10-year-old brother Fahad, who dotes on his older sister. ‘I help her in many ways,’ says Fahad. ‘Bathing her is another thing I do. And taking her out every day. I feel happy whenever I see people helping her. I like taking to our relatives. She feels happy when we visit them.’
The cause of Rahma’s condition is unknown, despite her family working hard to secure a diagnosis. Her dad, Hussaini, says: ‘I’ve spent 15 years searching for the cure. I farm, go to the market and lots more looking for money to pay for her bills. I sold almost everything in my possession. Only God knows the real amount of what I had spent.’
Doctors have been baffled by Rahma’s condition and Rahma’s family hope to get the attention of a charity or medical specialist who can help with the teen’s daily pain.
Rahma recently received some generous gifts after being featured in the local press, such as a donation of a wheelchair – and they’ve already made a big difference. And despite the daily challenges Rahma faces, the brave teenager is full of hope for her future and dreams of opening her own shop.
‘I thank God in everything I do,’ she says. ‘I want to start a business. A grocery store and anything people buy, that is what I want.’