Decoding disaibility management in Africa
It is time for African countries to realise that charity is not the solution for people living with disability. The implementation of good health care plan, educational and financial empowerment will make more impact.
Some people visit disability centres and bring foodstuff, toiletries, clothes etc while others provide funds for the running of these facilities. These are laudable projects. In fact, the more Africans rise up to meet the pressing needs of disability centres within their borders, and not wait for foreign aids, the more value they will have for human life and also hold government bodies accountable for good governance.
However, there are over twenty million people living with disability in Nigeria. United Nations statistics states that 80% of the world’s over one billion people living with disability in the world reside in developing countries like Africa.
People living with disability in Africa should not be made to depend on the crumbs from our tables to live their lives. It is their fundamental human right to be given opportunities to succeed in life just like you and I.
Government officials and organisations host parties at facilities meant for people living with disabilities and this is good, but it is better to provide proper health facilities for these people and schemes for empowering them. It is better to ensure that the children go to school or attend vocational centers and learn a skill. It is better they are taught skills to enable them live with some form of independence.
Many disabled children in orphanages are in dire need of quality health care and rehabilitation programs because some are not given treatment by public hospitals.
In Nigeria, many rehabilitation programs have been started and abandoned. A lot of special schools in Nigeria are not well equipped to meet the needs of the students.
This neglect of children with disabilities is not peculiar to only disabled children in orphanages; it is common, even among disabled children living with their families in many countries in Sub Saharan Africa. This is due to the large number of people living below poverty line.
Another concern for people living with disability in Africa is the issue of stigmatization. This is the root cause of disability exclusion within the communities.
What then is the way forward for Africa?
The government has to treat people living with disabilities, not like lesser human beings but those entitled to a better life. For the countries who are yet to sign their disability bills into law, the time to right the wrong is now.
African countries need to partner with organisations and individuals who are passionate about disability advocacy. Disability management is an enormous task but it can be done.
In tackling Disability Management, I have broken it down into different segments for clarity.
Some types of disabilities can be prevented by educating the general public on maternal health care. Many low income earners in some African countries still use traditional birth attendants for child delivery. This sometimes leads to complications during childbirth which can cause disabilities in the child. The government on all levels has to ensure that maternal and child care are made affordable, while embarking on serious family planning campaigns.
Disability management research should be carried out to understand the causes of disability and find the best ways to manage it. Data collation of persons living with disabilities is also very important.
Doctors and nurses have to be trained and given the necessary tools to be able to detect early, children who are likely to have any form of disability. This will enable the children to receive appropriate treatment on time before the condition degenerates. When mothers bring their children to the hospital for immunization, medical personnel should also use this opportunity to watch out for children who might be at risk of having disabilities.
Rehabilitation or Treatment Process
Early Intervention programmes should be initiated at the grassroot levels. Treatments and therapies for children living with disabilities should be provided at health centres in different communities to help children who have disabilities. A lot of medical conditions can be better managed when they are detected early and given effective treatment.
Many families in Nigeria have to take long drives before they can access public health centers and get therapies for their children living with disabilities. The health centres in the communities where these families live should make provision for therapy clinics for easy accessibility.
Welfare (Financial aids and counselling)
A large number of mothers who have children living with disabilities are becoming patients at psychiatric hospitals- leading cause, depression. The burden of caring for a child with disabilities without adequate funds and dealing with stigmatization in the community takes a toll on them. These mothers need financial assistance. They also need to be educated on how to manage their children’s medical conditions. Capable social workers are needed urgently in Africa to assist these mothers.
People who were not born with disabilities but either out of injury, disease or old age have become disabled also need assistance.
Community Integration (Inclusion, creating awareness, education)
People living with disabilities need to be integrated into the society early for them to have an opportunity to succeed in life. The best way to do this is for children living with disabilities to go to school with their peers through Inclusive education. Research has shown its great benefits. The government can make this possible by changing Teachers Training Curriculum to include special education courses for every teacher.
The general public should be educated about the concept of disability through different communication mediums. Public places should have amenities such as ramps, elevators and public transportation should be made accessible to disabled people.
People in Africa need to come to terms with the fact that disabilities are medical conditions and can be managed when detected early, when the people with disabilities are given the right treatment plan and accepted in the immediate and extended community.