HTWFNIGERIA BLOG

6

Never doubt that a small group of people can change the world, in fact in history that’s what they did. History is filled with stories of countless agents of change, men who in their bid to make changes to status quo made history.

It was November 2010 when I led a group of friends to an orphanage, to spend time, show love and support those people who are truly all by themselves, helpless with no one to help except by sympathetic caregivers.

We made our way to the Eruobodo House, Ijebu ode, Ogun state with the aim of spending time and thereby showing love to those who have been neglected and abandoned by friends and families due to their disabilities. Little did we know that our quest to support the needy in our society would eventually lead to the formation of a charity nonprofit, non-governmental organization named Heal The World Foundation Nigeria.

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Despite being a medical student at the time, with very limited time and financial resources, and with no financial support from any corporate organization, I started the social enterprise. Since inception we have had seven charity outreaches, one free medical outreach, visited four orphanages and visited four schools for children with disabilities.

The vision is to help the helpless by offering support for the welfare, health, education and economic empowerment of the less privileged, orphans and children living with disabilities.
To date, we have provided feeding, clothing and welfare support to more than 550 children with disabilities and orphans.

In advocacy for the rights of people living with disabilities, we regularly publish blogs locally and internationally. These articles are aimed at educating the Nigerian public in particular and the global community in general in order to eradicate the widely held myths which fuels the discrimination and stigmatization against the people living with disabilities.

Globally, about 1 billion people live with one disability or the other making them the single largest minority group in the world. More than 70 percent of these people live in the developing world and in extreme poverty.

In Nigeria, government support towards people with disabilities is very low. People with disabilities are human beings just like every one of us without disabilities, and they have fundamental human rights which must be protected and respected by all and sundry.

Presently, many of the people with disabilities in Nigeria live in extreme poverty and they are regularly abused, discriminated against and stigmatized. Our advocacy program has also taken us to television and radio stations, all aimed at increasing the awareness about disabilities rights.

Presently, while we are saddled with the challenge of starting and initiating programs which are sustainable. In order to overcome the problem of donor fatigue which is common to social enterprises who are majorly donor funded. And it’s for such a purpose that the idea of social business becomes extremely important for consideration and possible implementation of suitable and sustainable poverty eradicating and socially innovative ideas.

In the long run, Heal The World Foundation Nigeria aims to be the foremost organization working in conjunction with other global multinational organizations to ensure that poverty in Africa finds its way to the museum where it truly belongs.

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Our humanitarian efforts have not gone unnoticed locally and internationally. In August 2013, I was honored by Junior Chambers International (JCI) Nigeria as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Persons In Nigeria and later that year, I was the only delegate selected and sponsored from Nigeria by MTN Group Ltd (South Africa) to be among the 23 delegates to the 2013 One Young World Summit in Johannesburg from 20 of their operating countries.

Besides, I was honored as the Young Nigerian of the month of June, 2014 by Naija competitions.

Let’s wind the clock back 64 years

To an event that put a household in tears

It was supposed to be the lifesaving gas

For the premature, to be the musical maven

The maestro, the Mister Wonder

His retrolental fibroplasia, caused by the excess oxygen he was exposed to

The lifesaving gas in his incubator

Incubated his own blindness

How early blindness, can incubate one’s musical talent

From premature to magnificent

Is another day’s scientific duel

 

You need your eyes, you need your sight

How would you do well when there’s an impairment of your most important sensory organ?

An organ’s affectation, can easily impair one’s existence

Seeing is simply the outcome of complex systems at play

The end point of which is the brain interpreting the impulses it receives

Making you see what comes your way

Comparing the human body to a car

The heart would be the engine

The gas tank would be the stomach

The eyes would be the windows and gauges

Heavily fogged windows

Faulty gauges, prevent you from knowing different gauge levels

From the gas tank, to your speed level

All forms of well-coordinated car movement become impaired

 

How blind are we?

To the plights of people living with disabilities

To over a billion people on Earth

To the World’s largest minority

To those who have been afflicted since birth

To those with disability, acquired during the course of life

To those who need our care

To those who need our attention and affection

Along with our finances, a crucial part to be mentioned

 

Socioeconomic status impacts the lives of people living with disability

People living in poverty are more susceptible to a disability

Poverty, hunger and handicap are intertwined variables

Up to 80% of them live in developing countries

Most do not have the necessary form of assistance they need

From accessibility to that special school that suits their disability

To the appropriate mechanical aids that can make life more convenient for them

Most importantly, many of us don’t seem to care

 

Historically, people with disabilities, have been denied everything

From the fundamental to civil rights

They have a history marked by institutionalisation, abuse and neglect

Being blindfolded from seeing the potentials in them is another

They deserve all forms of acceptance and respect

Making it mandatory for society to make provisions to accommodate their needs

To help eliminate:  Attitudinal, environmental, architectural, and institutional barriers.

Many airports don’t have means for disabled people to get into aircrafts

Many public buildings don’t have facilities to make high-rise buildings accessible for people with disabilities

And so on….

 

Just the way being visually impaired comes in grades

So it is for other diseases and disorders that leave one disabled

The way the eyes can be congenitally affected, to need lifelong special aids

Is the same way those afflicted with different disabilities from the onset need support not to be less able

But does being handicapped automatically make you less able?

Does it actually handicap you from achievements?  from greatness?

 

RAY CHARLES (Sept 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004): Lost of sight at age 7. A brilliant, towering musical figure, nicknamed “The Genius”, who through his singing and piano playing helped invent soul and r&b music. He was ranked no. 10 on the “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” in 2004 by Rolling stone.

 

FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT (Jan 30, 1882 – April 12, 1945): Had several disabilities including vision impairment. Yet, he became the 32nd president of the United States of America; the only President to ever get elected 4 terms in a row because of his help for the recovery of the economy.

 

LOUIS BRAILLE: (Jan 4, 1809 – Jan 6, 1852): Became totally blind in both eyes at age 5, after he accidentally stabbed himself in the eye with his father’s awl.  He became an inventor and designed Braille writing, and later served as a professor.

 

ANDREA BOCELLI: (Sept 22, 1958 – ) Went totally blind at age 12, he is one of the world’s most famous opera singers; a man who overcame many odds to become a household name worldwide.

 

ALLAN PINEDA LINDO: (Nov 28, 1974 – ): Black Eyed Peas rapper, Apl.de.ap, is legally blind. With an estimated $82 million in combined earnings this year, he is one of the highest paid rappers for 2014.

 

HELEN KELLER, ABRAHAM NEMETH, GALILEO GALILEI, CLAUDE MONET, and so on.

 

Render assistance today,

The world needs your love.

 

Afunku Oluwatosin

Editorial Department,

Heal The World Foundation Nigeria.

www.htwfnigeria.org

www.htwfnigeriablog.org

www.twitter.com/htwfnigeria

The Clinical Pharmacy Clerkship in OOUTH, Sagamu runs for some 6 weeks and allows associate Pharmacists to receive clinical training and garner experience in clinical settings, to hone their skills, especially in the area of drug therapy, and to experience first-hand Pharmacy as a profession in contrast to Pharmacy as a course.

Like many things scholarly, it is compulsory – and necessarily so. Several occurrences make this experience worthwhile: the dizziness from standing for so long during the rounds, seeing Consultants gb’ara le (unnecessarily rebuke) registrars and medical students, witnessing patients take offence to the frequency of students’ examinations while smiles yet light up the faces of recuperating patients, and particularly the vast knowledge available for grabs during rounds.
One fateful morning found me in Paediatrics, again on rounds. This time, the memorable moment was not the gb’ara-le of the Consultant or the stupefied look on the (helpless) recipient, it was the sight of three infants with Cerebral Palsy (CP). And after the Consultant in charge had questioned each mother and examined each child, it was glaring that the ignorance, poverty and poor practices of the mothers disabled these bundles of joy. I remember asking the soul beside me in hushed tones, “Should we not give birth?”
Prior to this memorable encounter, People Living with Disabilities (PLWD) were a much unknown existence to me, save the occasional encounters in motor parks where they have become a norm, begging for alms from all who cross their path. Yet, whenever I was that one in their path, I rarely gave out money for security reasons. Yes, that is so convenient. And, no, I ain’t that bad. I give them money once in a while, usually to get them off my back but sometimes out of pity as well.
Now, as irksome as that may sound, I am pleased to tell you that account accurately depicts the prevailing acceptance of PLWDs: definitely below average! Ok, when was the last time you gave out of your heart, un-begrudgingly, to a person with disability? Hmm… I thought as much. Yet they need us to survive.
Yinka Shonibare is a British-Nigerian artist who lives in London. At 18, he contracted Transverse Myelitis (TM; an inflammation of the spinal cord) resulting in a long-term disability where one side of his body became paralysed. He subsequently obtained Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Art degrees in London, and currently employs batik, painting, sculpture, photography and movies in his work. Today, he is a critically acclaimed artist whose creativity knows no bounds.
Transverse Myelitis may not be so common among the masses but it has been scientifically proven that it is not so uncommon. In a paper titled, Profile and Outcome of Non-traumatic Paraplegia in Kano, Northwestern Nigeria, Transverse Myelitis was reported to be the second most-common aetiological factor in adult patients presenting with non-traumatic paraplegia. The report went on to note that that finding “was similar to that reported elsewhere in Africa”.
Born healthy, Helen Keller was a typical child. She became deafblind after she was afflicted with an unknown disease at 18 months. She subsequently developed home signs to communicate. Through her Mother’s unrelenting help, she met Anne Sullivan – a woman whose sight was partially restored through a series of operations – and this changed her life. Anne Sullivan began teaching Helen Keller manually by writing into her hand. One day, Helen Keller had a ‘eureka moment’: With Anne Sullivan’s help, she was able to understand that the cool liquid flowing over her palm was spelt ‘w-a-t-e-r’; up until that moment, she did not know that every object had a word identifying it. And how could she? She was deafblind!
Helen Keller went on to write books, lecture and become a political and social activist. She was the first deafblind person to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree and she learnt – through Anne Sullivan’s help – how to write and read braille, and speak. Anne Sullivan became Helen Keller’s companion till the former passed away, while Helen Keller became a worldwide celebrity who was friends with such dignitaries as Eleanor Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Albert Einstein and Graham Bell.
Although having different disabilities and nationalities, Yinka Shonibare and Helen Keller had common needs in order to achieve anything. While Yinka Shonibare relies on assistants to help him achieve his creative ideas because of the limitations imposed by his physical incapacity, Helen Keller not only required Anne Sullivan’s help to learn because of the uniqueness of her disabilities, but also relied on Anne Sullivan to read what she was required to know.
Both Yinka Shonibare and Helen Keller did not only have people who were strong in their area of incapacity, they also had a good support system, had access to as much education as they desired, and had adequate resources in a right environment to nurture and unleash their potentials regardless of any disability. It therefore comes as little surprise that they challenged every misconception about PLWD and have indeed expanded possibilities for PLWD.
It goes without saying, therefore, that PLWD in Nigeria (and other countries) need support, love, finances as well as supportive environments to unlock their potentials, and help them live and work in dignity. Family members are the first contact these people have with the (social) world and how they are treated by these ones is the determinant of how they see themselves and how they think they deserve to be treated. Esteem issues and nightmarish struggles stem from ill-treatment of these sources of blessing, especially by their own blood.
PLWD therefore need to be reassured and understood; they require more than an occasional show of concern during festivities from citizens and friends, and they certainly do not deserve the political gimmicks some leaders use to get airtime on television or praises on social media.
Why are many people without disabilities not concerned about building adequately equipped centres for PLWD? Why are the Government-owned centres dilapidated? The sight of many of the structures is enough to cause a nervous breakdown. Why are experts who incessantly equip themselves not employed to teach these children? Where are their educational materials? Why are people who do not have a passion to forge these ones involved in their training?
All may not be available to properly train these ones but we sure can show love; it does not cost a thing. We can make do with what is available and go the extra mile in showing PLWD that they are important. No, not every blame lies with the government? Have you ever thought of learning the Sign Language just to help facilitate conversations with deaf persons? That show of love can never be replaced by anything. Never!
Environment is essential in predicting the outcome of PLWD. Yinka Shonibare would not be a distinguished artist if he was not in a favourable environment; neither would Helen Keller have had the opportunity of speaking up for others who cannot, teaching, and writing books if she did not have all that was necessary for her growth. Nigeria as an environment can be made more favourable for PLWD by developing and implementing policies that favour PLWD; by providing materials, and employing adequately trained resource personnel; and, above all, by bringing awareness concerning PLWD.
It must be said that PLWD are not in any way limited in greatness or possibilities, or to the creative arts; there are also great orators, lecturers, activists, professionals, and authors with disabilities. It is a misconception that PLWD cannot function in the society, are cursed, ineducable and/or worthless. The world is already hard enough as it is; we certainly do not need to make it harder for people who have to live with disabilities they never asked for. There is so much ability locked away in PLWD; it would be a shame to never harness them.
PLWD are gods on earth,
different in a special way,
they have of appreciation a dearth,
and deserve much adoration night and day.
Pharm. Bolaji Alebiosu.
Editorial Department,
Heal The World Foundation, Nigeria.

Every day in our daily lives, we see people who can’t afford to sustain themselves whether due to a physical, mental or other disabilities.

 

These people live daily on the streets in rags, with no food or shelter and with no health care. And most are constrained to making a living by begging alms; at the mercy of the populace.

Many times they are subjected to various types of abuses including rape, physical assaults, and kidnapping for rituals

But being rightful members of the Nigerian society, these people deserve certain privileges which are conferred on them by their fundamental human rights.

The government owes it to the less privileged, orphans and every single one of the people who are socially handicapped to be housed, protected and catered for.

A country who ignores the social welfare of her people cannot attain true national development.

Because according to the United Nations, a nation’s human development index is an essential component of development and this importantly involves the measurement of the livXing conditions of the citizens.

 

Nigerian governments needs to realize that every single citizen does not only have civil and political rights, they also have social rights!

 

And the onus is upon government at all levels to take up their responsibility of providing adequately for the welfare of people out there on the streets who can’t provide for themselves and also to defend those who are constantly been abused. A government is constituted to protect the rights of the people.

 

Government should guarantee that persons living with disabilities have access to quality health care and education without discrimination.

Government should take appropriate steps to ensure that persons living with disability have good standard of living and this include adequate food, clothing and housing.

 

Public Transport service should be operated in a way that would be accessible for persons living with disabilities.

 

Persons living with disabilities should be protected from discrimination, exploitation, neglect, violence , abuse, torture, cruelty or inhuman treatment.

 

For how long shall females who have psychiatric illnesses be raped and made to carry pregnancies with no care. There are countless stories of sexual abuses and physical assault on people living with disabilities.

 

I particularly remember the story of a girl with disabilities as told by the assistant head teacher of her school, her mother and sibling had brought her to the school for admission but when referred by the school to one specialized for the child’s disability, dumped and abandoned the child just as they stepped out of that school. And very sadly, the girl was raped by the hoodlums and social miscreants in that neighborhood.

 

People should start going to jail for abusing the helpless and disabled in our communities.

 

Public places such as banks, eateries, hospitals,schools, malls cinemas etc must be made accessible to people with disabilities with ramps and lifts knowing fully well that its not everybody that can climb stairs no matter how small..

 

Nigerians should be more considerate towards people with disabilities in queues by giving them first consideration.

 

Governments at all levels should setup vocational training centres to facilitate the acquisition of skills for the economic liberty of people with disabililties.

 

Governments have the responsibility of ensuring that social services are available those Non-Governmental Organizations play a major role in planning, organizing and providing these services, such deserving ngos should be supported by the government.

 

Development isn’t just about constructing roads, markets, school and proving electricity and schools, it’s also about ensuring that the poorest of the people are well catered for.

 

Development is both material and social and as a result all nations need both social and economic resources to achieve national development. Social services are an essential element of the social development in a country’s overall development

 

Social work plays a vital role in national development through empowerment of the vulnerable and disadvantaged people thereby reducing the gap between the poor and the rich.

 

Nigerian should take a clue from the western world by implementing good and effective welfare programmes for the less privileged as it has been found that most of the developed world have considerably lower poverty rates than they had before the implementation of such programs.

 

The Nigerian legislation is gradually warming up to protecting the rights of the people living with disabilities. In April, 2012, the Nigerian federal house of representatives passed into law a bill sponsored by the Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa for the Full Integration of Nigerians with Disability into the Society and Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination Against Them”

 

Likewise in March 2014, the Nigerian Senate also passed into law the Discrimination Against Persons with Disabilities Prohibition Bill. The bill which was sponsored by Sen. Nurudeen Abatemi-Usman, seeks to protect the fundamental human rights of people living with disabilities.

 

Both laws prescribes financial penalties and jail terms for those who contravene them whether corporate bodies or individuals.

 

With the exception of Lagos, most of the other states in Nigeria don’t have laws yet protecting the rights of the people with disabilities but this has to change.

 

For how long shall people inflict pain and torture on those with disabilities just because they are seemingly weak and unable to defend themselves?

 

Ours need to be a community that is more sensitive, receptive and protective of the rights of people with disabilities because in the words of Nelson Mandela “to deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity”

 

 

 

Dr Freeman Osonuga

Founder/Executive Director,

Heal The World Foundation Nigeria

freemanosonuga@htwfnigeria.org

www.htwfnigeria.org

www.twitter.com/freeman_osonuga

www.twitter.com/htwfnigeria

 

Her early life was so far from perfect, at a young age of six she already knew what poverty, lack of support, fear, and low self-esteem meant. She couldn’t play with her peers because she lacked good clothes; her clothes were made of potato sacks. Her grandmother was the only friend she had. She encouraged her, showed her love, taught her to be godly, and corrected her when she was wrong. But her stay with her grandmother was cut short when her mother decided to move the family to another State. Moving wasn’t easy for her but somehow she managed and things only grew worse; her mother never had time for her, her mother became more wayward and she ended up having more kids than she could take care of.

 

She continued living with her mother till her senior year in high school. Between the ages of nine and fourteen, she was molested by her cousin, her uncle and a family friend, and when she finally told her family about it they refused to accept what she said. She moved on with life, concentrated on her academics and got a scholarship to the affluent Nicolet High School (NHS). In NHS, her poverty was constantly rubbed in her face so much that it made fitting in very difficult. In other to fit in, she started stealing money from her mother to spend lavishly with her friends. Later on she began to lie and argue with her mother in other to go out with older boys.

 

Due to her changed behaviour, her frustrated mother decided to send her back to her grandmother’s. Her grandmother was strict but encouraging and made her education a priority. While at her grandmother’s, she became an Honours student, won an oratory contest as well as a full scholarship to Tennessee State University where she studied Communication. Her first big break was as a part-time newscaster at a local black radio station (HVOL) where she was the youngest news anchor as well as the first black female news anchor while she was yet in her senior year of high school.

 

After some years, she moved to Baltimore’s WJZ-TV to co-anchor the six-o’clock news. She was then recruited to join Richard Sher as co-host of WJZ’s local talk show People Are Talking. Then she moved to Chicago and was persuaded by Roger Ebert to sign a syndication deal with King World. Roger Ebert’s show, At the Movies was then renamed The Oprah Winfrey Show.

 

The young girl I have been talking about since the beginning of this story is a TV personality and one of the most influential persons in the world – Oprah Winfrey.

 

Oprah had a very rough childhood but despite all the hardship she managed to pull through and with the help of her grandmother she achieved more than she ever even imagined. Oprah’s story has really proven that no matter how less privileged a child is, all the child needs is support and encouragement and the same goes for children with physical disabilities because everybody has the capability and ability to succeed in life.

 

Since a lot of people are ignorant of this, our job as HTWF members is not only to provide these children with material needs but to also help them realise that their physical disability or family background is not a barrier to them achieving their goals; for they are the little things we do that make the world a better place, and we are the change the world needs.

 

Opeyemi Osonuga

Editorial Department,

Heal The World Foundation Nigeria

Wwww.htwfnigeria.org

 

 

Few weeks after publishing the article, The Future of a Child with Cerebral Palsy in Nigeria, I met Tobiloba Ajayi, a barrister and solicitor with cerebral palsy. This of course contradicts the popularly held notion that people with disabilities don’t turn out well in life.

 

Cerebral Palsy is a disorder of movement and posture caused by permanent, non-progressive damage to the developing brain of a child. Children with cerebral palsy are usually impaired in speech and communication. Cerebral Palsy could be mild, moderate or severe and is of such different types as spastic, dyskinetic, ataxic, and athetoid. It presently has no cure and management requires a multidisciplinary approach.

 

Tobi’s life exemplifies the possibility for every child with disability to overcome the limitations of the disability and achieve their life’s dreams.

 

Tobiloba was a premature newborn, the 4th child of the Ajayi’s 5 children. Initially, her parents didn’t want to enrol her in school because although she could speak she could not sit, stand or walk; hence they thought she wouldn’t do well in school. It took the intervention of the proprietor of her siblings’ school for her to be enrolled. He convinced Tobi’s parents that that she couldn’t sit, stand or walk, didn’t mean she wouldn’t be able to learn.

 

Equating a physical disability with a mental impairment is one of the biggest myths about disabilities in Nigeria; and a myth that it is, it is far from the truth.

Tobi recalls her dad saying that soon after she started school she began to make efforts to stand. Though she enrolled in Nursery at the age of 3, Tobi eventually started walking at the age of 12. She says that attending school with other students (without disabilities) challenged her to be better and encouraged her to overcome self-defeat.

 

Tobiloba had her primary, secondary and tertiary education in Nigeria, and even partook in the National Youth Service Corps program. She later bagged a Master’s degree in International Law from the University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom.

 

Tobiloba is an advocate of inclusive education for children living with disabilities as against the popular schools of children with special needs. She says these special schools put children in acceptance mode (‘this is how I am and I cannot change it’) and thereby breed a life that is dependent on others for hand-outs, that such schools encourage their pupils to engage in pity parties but however admits that children with severe disabilities should be enrolled in special schools.

 

Personally, one of the reasons why it was easy for me to advocate and care for people with disabilities despite not having any disability or relative with one is because I attended the prestigious Adeola Odutola College, Ijebu Ode, where inclusive education is being practised. Our motto is “Adeola o k’omo k’omo, Aitan o ko’le ki le” meaning the school doesn’t discriminate. And so it was normal to freely relate and interact with other students who had one disability or the other without any discrimination or stigmatization. Our communities need to be more supportive and less discriminative towards people with disabilities.

 

At the 3rd edition of the Heal The World Charity Outreaches which was held on June 26, 2011 to the School of the Visually Impaired in Ijebu Igbo, Ogun State, I met Hammed Junaid my former visually impaired junior student at Adeola Odutola College. He had become a teacher at the school.

 

Inclusive education is a process of enhancing the capacity of the education system in any country to reach out to diverse learners. The basis of inclusion is that special-needs pupils have a right to the benefits of a full school experience, with needed modifications and supports, alongside their peers without disabilities who receive general education.

 

As an advocate for disability rights, Tobiloba Ajayi was part of the team that drafted Nigeria’s Vision 2020 especially as concerning the over 20 million Nigerians living with disabilities. She was likewise involved in the putting together of the Lagos State Disability Law.

 

Barrister Tobiloba turned out well today because she has a very supportive family which treated her without any special preference among her siblings. She was given same chores and expected to do well academically as much as her other siblings, and she lived up to it.

She says that 80% of the time her family related with her as if she didn’t have any disability.

 

A child with disabilities really needs a very supportive family but the special schools are viewed by some parents as ‘live-in facilities’ where they dump their wards. Consequently, many of these parents do not visit them regularly or offer them the much needed attention. Though raising a child with disabilities is no doubt very tough but it can be done successfully well.

 

It is to correct such attitude and to encourage the parents and family members of these children to be actively involved in their care and management that The Cerebral Palsy Centre, Surulere, Lagos, was founded and managed as a day-care centre for children with cerebral palsy. The Centre which was set up by Ms Nonyelum Nweke in April 2010 as a result of efforts to take care of her child, Zimuzo (Igbo for ‘God, show me the way’) who was adopted as a six-day old baby and was diagnosed of cerebral palsy at five months.

 

The government needs to be more responsible and responsive in the care of people with disabilities. Presently, much of the care available to People Living with Disabilities in Nigeria is by the individual efforts of concerned Nigerians through their non-governmental initiatives. Another worthy example of such is The Benola Foundation, a centre for Cerebral Palsy care in Nigeria which was founded by Air Vice-Marshal Femi Gbadebo (Rtd) whose 17 year old son, Olaoluwa, has a severe form of cerebral palsy.

 

As much effort ought to be put into prevention of disabilities as is being put into welfare and care of people with disabilities as revealed by a 3-year study of Cerebral Palsy in Ibadan by Nottidge V. A. and Okogbo M. E. which stated that about 63 percent of the causes of cerebral palsy are preventable.

 

Tobiloba is the author of Inspiration, a collection of poems written from her personal experiences and Christian faith. I just finished reading a copy of it and truly was I inspired. Tobiloba is an articulate, fluent and intelligent lady who lives her life to the full and does pretty much of everything including swimming.

 

Tobiloba isn’t the only person with disabilities living life to its fullest as she shares about her friends; Amanda and Tokunbo. Amanda Ikem, despite being visually impaired, trained herself to type well and fast. She is married to a Medical Doctor. Tokunbo Johnson who also has Cerebral Palsy is a Master’s degree holder and married with a daughter.

 

With a supportive family, good education, non-discriminatory and stigma-free community, every child with disabilities can live a life devoid of poverty and attain the best of what the world has to offer.

 

As I round up this piece, my heart goes out to the many children with disabilities cocooned away in our villages, slums and rural communities. And I ask: When will they get the much needed support and education?

 

Dr Freeman Osonuga

Founder and Executive Director,

Heal The World Foundation Nigeria.

www.htwfnigeria.org

www.htwfnigeriablog.org

www.twitter.com/htwfnigeria

www.twitter.com/freeman_osonuga

freemanosonuga@htwfnigeria.org

 

 

It was like any other rainy day at this bus park in a small town in south-western Nigeria. The clouds had gathered through the night, and as morning dawned, the rains poured down– mercilessly. Most people left home for their business activities well prepared for the downpour: they were armed with umbrellas and an array of colours of shower caps could be seen on the women.
The rain had now stopped and, being a weekday, shops and businesses which had been half-opened were opening fully. Civil servants and traders who had been delayed by the rain were seen hurriedly trying to get to their workplaces and businesses respectively. Schoolchildren were also seen in scattered small groups on their way to the primary and secondary schools in the area.
Street hawkers could be seen hawking their wares (ranging from bottled water, soft drinks, snacks, apples, bananas, bread and even recharge cards)– Items travellers usually purchased while waiting to begin their journeys. Their ages ranged from 7 to 35 years and the majority were school-aged boys and girls. Some of them were in their school uniforms. They had planned to make a few sales for their parents before they set off late to school—as always.
As street-working children they were aware of the rules of engagement: One, their parents needed the money to support the paying of their school fees. Two, the best their parents could afford was a secondary school education if poor performances or unwanted pregnancies did not make them drop out before writing their secondary school certificate exams. And three, whatever the outcome, life afterwards would begin by learning a trade if they were of good behaviour as the cost of a university education was a galaxy away from their parents’ reach.
These were clearly understood and imprinted in their heads. In other words, they had accepted this sad fate and some had practically given up on their dreams. The only place they could be doctors or lawyers or engineers or accountants, movie actors or musicians, and a host of other possibilities was their dreams.
In a small corner of the bus park taking in this scenario was Timothy. He was 15 years old with a level of intelligence that could hardly outwit the average 5-year-old. His father was a cab driver and his mother, a petty trader in one of the nearby shops. He suffers from cerebral palsy with weakness on one side (in hand and leg) and also has associated hearing, speech and learning impairments. Timothy sat on the wet floor barefoot, and his shorts were old, dirty and torn. They had belonged to his elder brother, the shorts of his old school uniform. The tee shirt he wore wasn’t any better: it was oversized, dirty, riddled with holes, worn inside and out, and worn inside-out.
Timothy sat there with a swollen cheek from a slap he had received from a user of the park. He had somehow learned to beg and was bold enough to approach people, tap them and make gestures requesting for alms. Most times the people ignored him, but, he wouldn’t give up. He would persistently tap such people till he was rewarded or scolded: the son of man must feed or be fed.
The more popular option was to scold him. Scolding came in the form of yelling at him and sometimes he suffered physical abuse. This was not new to him as such abuse was employed by all and sundry to teach him toilet habits and to correct him when he misbehaved. He would arrive at the park with his family very early in the morning and they would leave long after it was dark. The in-between witnessed his roaming the park and begging for alms.
As he sat there, he watched people pass by, occasionally nodding his head and muttering incomprehensible words. One of his siblings also hawking in his school uniform passed by and he called out to him. The few words he was able to successfully pronounce with his speech impairment included “mummy” and the names of his siblings. His brother stopped and turned in his direction, and seeing no urgent need for his attention he went on his way displaying his items to passers-by; time was of the essence, after all– time and not his brother. Yet, Timothy was not disturbed. He was used to being ignored. He gathered himself together. “Life must continue after all,” he must have reasoned—if indeed he could. He gathered himself up and began to limp away towards a well-dressed lady, not minding what awaited him.
As poor Timothy wandered on, one could only wonder if he had dreams or believed any of his dreams could come through, if he envied the schoolchildren going to school, or if he wished he could go with them—and at the extreme, if he ever dreamt of being a pilot or a banker or even a neurosurgeon. But we can be sure that beyond the slaps and neglect, poor Timothy shouldered a double burden, the compound tragedy of being a child on the street with severe physical disabilities.
We have to ask ourselves: Why did poor Timothy have to go through these unfortunate circumstances? What could have been done to avoid such an outcome? As a child with disabilities, what measures are in place or can be put in place to rehabilitate him and fit him into society? Or is he condemned to face a life sentence of neglect and physical abuse?
And to our mounting concern is this grim reality: Similar scenarios exist in other parts of the country and in other cities in many third world countries. Varying ailments plague these children; some are paralysed by polio or other crippling illnesses, deaf and/or even blind.
You see, street children comprise of orphans, products of broken homes, unwanted pregnancies or plain victims of the harsh economic situation; a fate they did not choose for themselves. They represent the face of poverty, hunger, insecurity and social neglect in a society and “a foolish nation ignores them (street children) at its own peril.”
There are an estimated 300 million children less than 15 years in Africa representing almost half of Africa’s population. The World Bank in 1996 reported that children less than 18 years of age made up about 48 percent of the total population in Nigeria. A UNICEF report in May 2005 also estimated that 7.3 million Nigerian children of school age were out of school. There are currently no exact figures for street children with disability but a stroll through urban and suburban city streets across the country will reveal quite a number of children suffering complications of cerebral palsy and polio– all being conditions that could have been prevented.
A few of these children are lucky enough to make headway in life (usually in the area of sports) and some are adopted by wealthier members of their extended families. The rest are left in the not-so-caring hands of illicit drug abuse, hooliganism, cultism, and rape, amongst others. In a society like ours, they make easy prey for kidnappers, ritualists and perpetrators of child trafficking.
So that we should again ask ourselves: Should the future of these children be left to chance and sheer luck with the odds so poor? What can be done to better the lot of these street children? What can be done to help brighten the already grim future that stares them in the face and scares them in their dreams? What can be done to give them hopeful dreams and happy endings?
The answers are simple.
We can start by preventing any further increase in the population of street children. Adequate dissemination of information about the importance of contraception and family planning, and the negative effects of promiscuity, becomes key especially among people of the lower socioeconomic class. Unwanted pregnancies and families with more children than can be catered for are popular factories of these street children. Couples should therefore plan for their family and determine an adequate family size commensurate with their income range– or perhaps even less than their income. They should also be encouraged to adopt family planning principles and the contraceptive technique(s) that best suits for them.
Also, information about the benefits of adequate antenatal care and patronage of skilled healthcare personnel before and at the time of delivery is also essential in improving the outcome for babies and should be continually propagated.
Prompt and adequate immunization of babies should also be encouraged to prevent onset of vaccine-preventable diseases (like polio) that may lead to disability. The cost of these health services should be made affordable and preferably should be free of charge.
Educating them is paramount and should be free for all children of school age to reduce the burden of school fees on the already strained finances of the parents. An education can go a long way in influencing decisions made by the children even while on the street as they are at risk of being fathers or mothers of unwanted pregnancies themselves hence aiding the re-population of street children– a classic vicious cycle.
Special consideration should be given to children with disabilities as they are worse off. Most of them are unable to fend for themselves or even work like the other street children. Hence, they are neglected by their families and society. Provision of sports academies, vocational and rehabilitation centres, as well as more schools for children with special needs should be set up to cater for the children with disabilities. These centres are essential to filter and expose the talent possessed by these children and impart skills in the others to aid their sustenance as they enter adulthood; and in essence, to give people like Timothy a chance to have an education, a chance to be something, a chance to be someone.
The government and private sector must also be encouraged to partner and begin to take urgent and strict measures to curb this ugly menace.
We all as Nigerians have a significant role to play in providing succour to these less privileged children.
Summarily, street children should be seen as potential doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, teachers, farmers, and members of any profession they so desire. They have a right to live; they have a right to dream and to hope for a better future. Timothy and all other neglected street children with disabilities all over the world have a right to be accepted members of their respective societies.
Together, we all can come together to restore lost hope to these children, to help brighten their future and to give them a reason to dream with better odds to turn their dreams into reality to the benefit of society and the nation as a whole.
Together, we can come together to help the helpless.
By Dr Chukwuma Arinzechi C.
Editorial Department,
Heal the World Foundation Nigeria,
www.htwfnigeria.org
www.htwfnigeriablog.org
@htwfnigeria

0 HEAL THE WORLD SEASON 7

htwfnigeria to Uncategorized  

The 7th Edition of the Charity Outreaches of Heal The World Foundation Nigeria is scheduled to hold on May 25,2014 at the School of Children with special Needs, Abeokuta, Ogun State.

This outreach is an Education Enhancement Programme aimed at supporting the education of children with special needs at the Daniel Akintonde Model School for Children with Disabilities in Adigbe, Abeokuta.
The school has about 150 pupils with varying degrees of disabilities.The foundation plans to donate a clinic to the school, while also donating materials for the support of vocational training for the children such as tailoring, barbing, shoe and craft making in order to empower them with income generating skills.
Besides, materials to improve the living and learning conditions of the pupils will also be donated.
if we don’t help the helpless, who will ?
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Make a donation today.
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He had had a severe cerebral palsy. Christy Brown was born in Crumlin, Dublin to Bridget and Paddy. He was one of 13 surviving children (out of 22 born) in a Catholic family. He was disabled by cerebral palsy and was incapable for years of deliberate movement or speech. Doctors considered him to be intellectually disabled as well. However, his mother continued to speak to him, work with him, and try to teach him. One day, he famously snatched a piece of chalk from his sister with his left foot to make a mark on a slate.

At about five years old, only his left foot responded to his will. Using his foot he was able to communicate for the first time. He is most famous for his autobiography “My Left Foot”, which was later made into an Academy Award-winning film of the same name. The Irish Times reviewer Bernard Share said the book was “…the most important Irish novel since Ulysses”. Christy Brown later went on to become one of Ireland renowned author, poet, and even a painter with his left foot.

Vincent Van Gogh was a Dutch Painter and is regarded as one of the greatest painters the world has ever seen. His paintings have immensely contributed to the foundations of modern art. Vincent Van Gogh suffered depression. In his 10 years painting career (short because he later shot himself dead at 37 years), he produced 900 paintings and 1100 drawings. Some of his paintings today are the most expensive: Irises was sold for $53.9 Million and the Portrait of Doctor Gachet was sold for $82.5 Million!

The renowned Mathematician and Physicist did not speak until age 3. Albert Einstein had a learning disability. He had a very difficult time doing maths in school. It was also very hard for him to express himself through writing. So he didn’t have it all smooth like many people thought.

Even Thomas Edison too. In his early life, he was thought to have a learning disability and he could not read till he was twelve, and he later admitted that to have gone deaf after pulling up to a train car by his ears. He first captured the world’s attention by inventing the phonograph. His most popular invention is the electric light bulb. He also developed the telegraph system. The great inventor with over 1,000 patents and inventions that’s used in various fields in our daily lives later became a prominent businessman and his business institution produced his inventions and marketed the products to the general people.

Also John Milton English author and poet became blind at age 43 and went on to create his most famous epic, Paradise Lost. Franklin D. Roosevelt, governor of New York State and later President of the United States for 4 terms had polio.

Now can I not mention Ludwig Van Beethoven until now? The famous musician and greatest German composer was going to lose his source of livelihood at the age of 28 years – the music protégé was gradually going deaf – at the later part of his life. Despite having a personal life that was not peaceful, he didn’t commit suicide. He however went ahead to compose many piano sonatas such as Waldstein, Appassionata, etc.

Homer, the author of Iliad and Odyssey, was blind.

George Washington, Woodrow Wilson, Alexander Graham Bell, Tom Cruise (Hollywood Star), Walt Disney, Will Smith, Whoopi Goldberg and many other prominent people have (had) learning disabilities. They either can (could) barely write, have (had) very poor grammar skills or severely dyslexic.

Now if these people we ordinarily would think are disadvantaged could achieve something in life, not only something but they conquered their world. And we still talk about them centuries after they have departed from this world, then being disabled is probably not a disadvantaged. No longer should we look at them like a piece of stinking rag. No. No longer should they jump out of the ship of life into the sea of suicide for rescue, like many great minds great did.

Rather, it is an impetus, an inner-anger or a resolution to prove something to the world, to the pitying world around them. They are not beggars or less than humans. They are part of the solution, not a problem. They are human. They are no beggars and can earn an honest living. They have an opportunity to fight and make a say for other disabled but discouraged people in the society so that they (all together) will not be looked down in the community again. So would you guys rather let them down?

For those of us who are able-bodied men and women, we should be challenged by these stories and change our attitudes towards them. Furthermore, we can vow to live out our lives and gifts to the fullest and awe of this generation and generations to come – or what is stopping us? No excuse is good enough.

I believe in you.

See you at the top!

Dr. Ajayi Oluseyi Folajimi

Editor In Chief,

Heal The World Foundation Nigeria.

Globally, about 1 billion people live with disabilities. Most of these people live in the developing nations. And, predictably, the People Living With Disabilities (PLWD) are the world’s largest minority group.

As living with disabilities is often characterised with poverty, stigmatisation and abuse, global efforts for the support of people with disabilities should include poverty alleviation measures as well as economic empowerment, improved employment opportunities, and equal access to education, health and social amenities, among others. Likewise, the defence of the rights of people living with disabilities should be frontline in Human Right Charters in all countries because of the numerous and diverse abuses that they are predisposed to.

Yet, on second thoughts, Can’t we reduce the incidence and overall prevalence of disabilities over time? Since the causes of and predispositions to these impairments and disabilities are an open secret, the incidence of disabilities can be reduced – like that of any other issue of global importance! However, this reduction calls for increased efforts at sensitizing the public on the various causes of disabilities and how to prevent them.

That more than 70% of people living with disabilities are in the developing world is no coincidence. It merely reflects the state, availability and accessibility of (public) health facilities.

One very crucial health service that is quite significant to the development of disabilities is the antenatal, delivery and postnatal health service. The absence of adequate and effective healthcare to pregnant women during any or all the phases of their pregnancies has been implicated in the development of disabilities in their babies after birth.

A significant number of the people with disabilities today are the result of mismanaged deliveries and also as a result of delay in accessing specialist’s assistance in cases of complications during or after birth.

All pregnant women must be able to receive effective mother and child healthcare but this is still a dream in the developing world especially to women in rural areas and city slums as these services are too expensive, or too far and inaccessible, or totally absent, such that these women therefore have to patronise untrained birth attendants with the associated increase in risks in childhood and maternal morbidity and mortality.

Efforts must be made by governments at all levels to reduce delays in accessing health care by pregnant women. An initiative such as the Abiye (Safe Motherhood) Project of the Ondo State government of Nigeria has been globally acclaimed for reducing maternal and childhood morbidity and mortality, and should therefore be emulated by governments all over Africa.

On the other hand, a person’s socioeconomic status can also predispose him/her to disabilities because there is an undeniable relationship between poverty and disability: people of low socioeconomic status are more predisposed to disabilities than those of a higher socioeconomic status.

In fact, poverty and disability form a vicious cycle. People with disabilities are more likely to end up poor. Poverty increases a person’s vulnerability to disabilities and disabilities increase a person’s vulnerability to poverty. This vicious cycle must be broken. Governments, non-governmental organisations, and individuals all over the globe must ally to end the unholy alliance of poverty and disabilities.

Generally, the following measures are quite important in the prevention of disabilities:

Pregnant women are advised not to take medications without doctors’ prescription especially during the first trimester of their pregnancy because of the risk of developing birth defects in the babies with resulting functional impairments and limiting disabilities. And since women are often unaware that they are already pregnant at this early phase, this directive also applies to all women intending to get pregnant.

Certain medications and consumptions should be completely avoided throughout pregnancy. An excellent example is alcohol. Cheap, available and culturally acceptable, but alcohol consumed in pregnancy causes Foetal Alcohol Syndrome: babies that are unusually small and with facial abnormalities, learning and behavioural difficulties among other problems. Cannabis, heroin, cocaine and tobacco are likewise no-go areas.

X-rays are X’s because they were unknown at the time of their discovery and because they are no-go areas to the unprotected. By extension, they should be avoided by pregnant women because the ionizing effects of radiation are more on developing babies than adults.

In conclusion, extra care should be taken to prevent accidents of all types as they are very likely to leave behind permanent disabilities in their victims. I will not forget in haste the story of Kehinde Omotoyole whom our organisation is helping with his hospital bills. Kehinde is a 4-month-old baby who lost his left leg to a domestic fire incident about 10 weeks ago. It is disheartening that Kehinde lost his limb even before he was able to use it. When he finally grows up and is able to ask questions, will the explanation about what led to the loss of his limb be tenable and acceptable? Only time can tell.

Preventing disabilities is a collective responsibility; the government has huge responsibilities and so does every one of us!

A little precaution by all makes this world a safe place!

Dr Freeman Osonuga is the Founder and Executive Director of Heal The World Foundation Nigeria. www.htwfnigeria.org

freemanosonuga@htwfnigeria.org

@freeman_osonuga

@htwfnigeria