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Experts decry shortage of manpower for children with disability

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By Chioma Obinna

Experts have decried shortage of professionals to correctly diagnose, manage and offer appropriate counsel and medical attention to children with special needs in the country.

A cross section of the new physically-challenged students

According to them, such children should be appropriately diagnosed, treated promptly and reintegrate into the society.

The experts who spoke at the 2017 Annual Scientific Conference/Workshop, tagged: “Challenges and care of children with special needs,” organised by the National Orthopaedic Hospital, Igbobi, Lagos, regretted the activities of some general practitioners in medical practice who claimed to be specialists, adding that such doctors are not equipped to serve the needs of the concerned category of patients.

In his presentation entitled: ”Challenges of Managing Children with Special Needs: Cerebral Palsy as a case Study”, a Consultant Paediatrician/Provost, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Prof. Afolabi Lesi, disclosed that there are no enough professionals  to manage these children.

According to him, Nigeria has about 72,000 doctors, 40,000 in the country, 500 Paediatricians; 4000 Physiotherapists (2,600 active, 15 neuro-physiotherapists), 37 Occupational therapists (17 active); 54 Speech therapists (24 active).  But unfortunately, most of them are located in the big cities like Lagos, Port Harcourt, and Abuja and there are none in some states and rural areas.

Lesi  said over 600 million persons  are living with disabilities throughout the world, of whom 400 million live in developing countries and 80 million in Africa.  He said the problem in Nigeria was compounded by the shortage of professionals, poor diagnosis and high cost of management.

“The World Health Organisation maintains that about 40 per cent of Africa’s population consists of people with disabilities, including 10-15 per cent of school-age children.”

Lesi  said about 700,000 children and adolescents are living with cerebral palsy.   He estimated that children living with cerebral palsy will spend not less than N141, 060 in and public hospital and N891, 060 in a private hospital for only six visits per year.

In his lecture tagged: “Challenges and Care of Children with Special Needs” the Executive Chairman, Lagos State Universal Basic Education Board, Dr. Ganiyu Sopeyin, called for the need for the integration of children with special needs, particularly, those living with cerebral palsy.

He added that certain acts of the federal legislation took cognizance of the need to include children with special needs in every area of national life.   The Medical Director,  NOHIL, Dr. M.F. Alimi said the event was an annual lecture of  the hospital which usually focus on different topics,  adding that the choice of this year’s theme was to give hope to children with disability.

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