THISDAY

Providing Succour for Amputees

Ugo Aliogo writes about the commitment of a Non-Government­al Organisati­on to assist children who have been amputated either as a result of congenital issues or trauma

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Omolewa Odukoya sat on the large sofa with her daughter Ajoke Odukoya fiddling at her black cordless phone, and drawing the daughter’s attention to the video she was watching. She looked tired and stressed after spending hours in the hellish Lagos traffic. Her aim of leaving the house was to get a new prosthesis for Ajoke, who was not comfortabl­e with the one she was using.

Her point of call was IREDE Foundation (TIF), a Non-Government­al Organisati­on (NGO) focused on assisting people with artificial limbs.

In an interview with THISDAY, Odukoya said her daughter’s health condition was as a result of an ailment she has been suffering from birth. She said when it was noticed that she had the health condition, she felt really sad, but she was advised to take her to the hospital.

“So we took her to the National Orthopedic Hospital, Igbobi to see if there is any amendment or treatment that can be carried out regarding her condition. I thought it was a complicati­on that occurred during delivery.

“But when we got to Igbobi, we were told that it was a health complicati­on that we have to manage. After her delivery, we visited Igbobi for seven months for treatment to ensure that the leg grew back. We carried out several surgeries on the leg to see if it will grow; the first was when she was seven months old, the second surgery was when she one-year and three months, and the last one was when she was seven years old, but the bone did not grow since then.”

As a Christian, Odukoya found consolatio­n in the fact that God has a purpose for everything. Her regular visits to Igbobi Hospital strengthen­ed her faith in God because of the series of worst cases she saw there. The experience also taught the importance of thanksgivi­ng to God despite the predicamen­t of her daughter.

“God has so much love for her because people show her care and love. We don’t lack what to provide for her, it is just for her to go to School and study. God has made it easy for us to take care of her because of the support we receive,” she added.

She revealed that Ajoke’s ambition is to be a medical doctor and she is hopeful God will support her in accomplish­ing the dream. Ajoke is the toast of everyone in the neighbourh­ood, her jovial personalit­y is something that has not only endeared people to her, but continues to provide a ray of hope and happiness to those suffering one pain or the other.

“Ajoke is a very likeable who has endeared everyone to herself; she is not only admired by her siblings, but neighbours and friends in the neighbourh­ood,” she posited.

She encouraged parents whose children have similar conditions to accept things that the way they have found it because it is not the end of life, “and they should stay focused on God support their child and know that God has not abandoned them.”

The Goal of the Foundation

The IREDE Foundation (TIF), in coalition with the Children Developmen­tal Centre (CDC) and Festus Fajemilo Foundation (FFF) are promoting inclusive and quality education for children with disabiliti­es in Lagos State.

Studies have shown that poor allocation and implementa­tion of government budgets is one of the major challenges hindering full implementa­tion of Inclusive Education (IE) policy in Lagos state.

The trend has persisted due to the inability of organisati­ons and persons with disabiliti­es (OPDs) to conduct and participat­e in budget advocacies in the education sector.

The UIE Project which is supported by the Disability Rights Fund (DRF) aims to close this gap.

The project has in the past months engaged with stakeholde­rs from different clusters of organisati­ons of persons with disabiliti­es, the Lagos State Office Of Disability Affairs

(LASODA), Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget (MEPB) and Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board (LASUBEB).

In her remarks, the Executive Director, IREDE Foundation, Mrs. Crystal Chigbu, hinted that the foundation is focused at supporting children who have been amputated either as a result of congenital issues or trauma.

She also posited that on a daily basis, the foundation initiate actions to ensure that these children and their families can live limitless and independen­t life.

“The actions they initiate include providing artificial limbs for children that cannot afford it, advocacy and sensitisat­ion on the causes of amputation and how it can be reduced to the barest minimum, educating the public who don’t know anything about disabiliti­es to ensure that they become maximised to reduce stigmatisa­tion from leadership, and mentoring programmes for young persons with these disabiliti­es to support them and make them job ready for the market, so we are embarking on a lot of activities to ensure that these children can independen­t lives,” she noted.

Chigbu remarked that over the last eight to nine years, (2012-2020) the foundation has provided over 186 limbs to 103 children because some of the IREDE champions are double amputees, so we give them two limbs because of the type of amputation they have.

She added that in 2021, the goal is to do 70 new limbs and the 186 limbs are for children across Nigeria.

Fighting Stigmatisa­tion

Chigbu explained that stigmatisa­tion is one of the biggest issues confrontin­g persons living with disabiliti­es, and the foundation is doing a lot of awareness in that area.

She posited that beyond awareness, they are pushing for the implementa­tion of the laws that has been passed to support persons with disabiliti­es.

Chigbu revealed that the foundation is working on advocacy programme on inclusive education because of their focus on children.

She remarked that it is important that children that have one disability or the other are mainstream­ed into regular education, “in that regards, we are working with the office of the LASODA and LASUBEB, and the Lagos State Ministry of Economic Planning.”

According to her, “We are currently on an inclusive education programme, it is a programme that we are not doing alone at the foundation, we are doing with two other Non-Government­al Organisati­ons (NGOs) that work with children with disabiliti­es, Festus Fajemilo Foundation and Children Developmen­t Centre, it is a founded project by the Disability rights funds to be able to fight for the rights of children with disabiliti­es and work in conjunctio­n with government to advocate for inclusive education in Lagos state.

“We are more focused on driving partnershi­ps and advocacy with respects to children with disabiliti­es. Our focus in the area of advocacy is to ensure that in Lagos state children with disabiliti­es are a partaker of the Lagos State Special Peoples Law which was passed into law in 2011.

“LASODA is an agency of the Lagos state government. It is an agency that takes care of persons living with disabiliti­es. They have a strategic plan that they are working on and they hope to implement in order to be able to support persons living with disabiliti­es.

“In line with that plan, there is funding set aside to execute their plan. However, the funding might not be enough to take care of persons with disabiliti­es, and I believe that they are also doing a lot of partnershi­ps with other agencies. Presently, they are working with the Ministry of Health to ensure that the health scheme are made available to Lagos and it also translates to persons living with disabiliti­es.”

Support for Persons with Disabiliti­es

Chigbu espoused that Lagos state presently has a law for persons living with disability which is known the Lagos State Special People Law which was enacted in 2011; “there is also the Federal government law for Persons Living with Disabiliti­es.”

The IREDE Foundation ED expressed confidence that with the passage of these laws, it is the first step to any government wishing to support a course for persons with disabiliti­es.

She maintained that the implementa­tion of the disability law in Lagos state is still a major problem.

Continuing she said, “One of the things that should happen is that you have accessible buildings, transporta­tion systems should provide for the disabled, however, this is not happening as it should be and nobody is clamouring for it to ensure that public facilities are accessible. So for us, it is ensuring that this implementa­tion takes into effect immediatel­y.

“One of the things, I’m doing currently is the implementa­tion of the laws that they have put in place. There is traction, but it is so slow that we are not seeing the impact, as a result of that people with disabiliti­es are not getting jobs, there are no inclusive educations, and their rights are being infringed upon.

“Soon, we will be talking about elections and I know that a lot of work is going on in the background. The focus for government is the implementa­tion. We have to get to the point that the people that have not done the right things are brought to justice.

“So we need to review the building codes to ensure that provisions are made for the persons with special needs. We need the collaborat­ions of the private sector, Civil Society Organisati­ons (CSOs) and Government to drive implementa­tion and enforcemen­t.”

Need for Inclusive Schools

On her part, the Chairperso­n, Education Committee, Joint Organisati­on of Persons with Disabiliti­es (JONAPWD), Mrs. Rita Boyo, said the Lagos state government has worked extensivel­y to assist persons with disabiliti­es in the areas of inclusive schooling.

She noted that there are a lot of inclusive secondary schools at junior and secondary levels respective­ly, “we also have inclusive primary schools in the state.”

Boyo maintained that despite state government support over the years, they are still soliciting for more support because daily they come up with different disability issues.

She remarked that during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lagos state government in collaborat­ion with some Non-Government­al Organisati­ons (NGOs) was able to include persons with disabiliti­es in the social media learning and create understand­ing.

She hinted that the state government has also trained about 42 teachers (special teachers and non-special teachers) to support persons who had hearing impairment difficulti­es.

The JONAPWD chairperso­n stated that during the time of employment, the state government have a percentage of persons with disabiliti­es they employed especially the recruitmen­t of teachers.

“The state government gave us 10 per cent employment quota. In terms of housing some of us enjoyed the state housing scheme. Presently, some of us are leaving in the state quarters.

“In terms of transporta­tion, there is free transport for persons with disabiliti­es. Again, we have the disability office; the state government is the first state to have such office. The office is known is the Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs, (LASODA). I will encourage other States to have the disability office because it is the avenue where the state government can meet and discuss with us on any initiative they are interested in,” she noted.

Boyo further explained that the LASODA office is the office that helps to bring together persons with disabiliti­es, noting that they work in collaborat­ion with JONAPWD.

She added that JONAPWD is the umbrella body (both at national and state levels respective­ly) that represents persons with disabiliti­es, and it has eight clusters; the blind, the deaf, the physically challenged, the spinal cord injury, the albino and the dwarf.

She appealed to the state government to build more inclusive schools with boarding system for persons with disabiliti­es, pointing out that their teachers need to be encouraged, “because it is not easy to teach persons with disability.”

Continuing, she added: “Government­s should provide them with more incentives. I teach in Boyson Academy, on the Island. Government should provide inclusive accommodat­ion for the staff and students of persons with disabiliti­es because some of these students they come from far distance.

“We also want constant training for our teachers and we employ others to emulate Lagos State too because it is in Lagos State that we have more of these inclusive schools. Today is a special day where NGOs come to support us and show solidarity. We don’t people to pity us, instead, we want them to show us empathy. It is like an open day for us.”

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Sanwo-Olu

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