By Gabriel Ewepu and Fortune Eromosele – Abuja
As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to commemorate World Down Syndrome Day, WDSD, a non-profit making organization, the Engraced Ones Parent Support Group for Special Needs, EOPSGSN, weekend, condemned discrimination against children and young adults living with Down syndrome in the country.
While expressing dismay over the attitude of some Nigerians, the Convener, EOPSGSN, Biboara Yinkere, pointed out areas of grave concern as it affects the well-being and welfare of those with the condition, and said it is uncalled for any form of discrimination against them, because the condition does not limit but discrimination does.
Every 21 March is World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) as declared by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2011, which is established to give those with Down Syndrome including those who live and care for them throughout the world
Also, activities are organised to raise public awareness and create a single global voice advocating for the rights, inclusion and well-being of people with Down syndrome. The 2021 theme is “We CONNECT so that we can.”
She said: “A lot of people discriminate, not because they want to be mean or wicked, just that they don’t have the knowledge of what these children can be and do.
“One of the things we hope to achieve is to get people to know about what Down syndrome is and what life can be for people who live with the condition. We are here to train Sunday school teachers, educators and parents on how they can equip their children to build spiritual capacity.
“Getting parents to know about this syndrome is a bit difficult because we use our social media platforms to reach out, but most of the parents that are not in that class don’t have access to that information. Therefore, we need everyone to support us including the media, governments, non-government organisations in sensitizing the public about special needs and Down syndrome.”
She, however, called on the federal government to play an active role in ensuring safe training of children living with the condition as well as providing proper health care systems for their improvement.
“We want the government to come out in full force, sponsor children with the Down syndrome, build and enforce diagnostic centres that will help detect children that may be born with the syndrome in order to begin early intervention”, she stressed.
Speaking in the same vein, Head Training Team, the Engraced Ones, Yemisi Ife-Iji, explained that the challenges in training children who have Down syndrome is enormous for caregivers including parents who do not have enough resources to cater for their needs.
“The challenges we have is in the training and health care of these children. In Nigeria, there is no free medical care therefore it means the parents need to bear the burden of the treatment.
“We all know the state of the nation, most parents who have children with this condition cannot afford such healthcare expenses”, Ife-Iji said.
She however called for the help of government at all levels by creating an enabling environment where parents can bring their children to government hospitals and be well taken care of without the fear of mistreatment, mishandling.
“We don’t want these children to be locked up in the house, this can worsen their condition. We are aware the UN set aside March 21 as World Down Syndrome Day but how is the government creating that awareness? How are they helping in letting people know the day is for children living with Down syndrome, we need the government for proper sensitisation”, she added.
Meanwhile., one of the parents, Grace Okpomhe narrated her experience while raising her child with the condition following ridicule and shame that were initial challenges.
“This event is of great relevance because I have this child that is living with down syndrome, he is 18 years of age.
“I was usually ashamed of him because of his condition. I was so ashamed because I didn’t know how to help him until I came in contact with the Engraced Ones that took care of and give him intense training to improve his condition.
“It is difficult training children with down syndrome, but what we can do is to put our hope in God, show them, love, never separate them from other kids, never give up on them, because giving up on them and letting them live their lives on their own, could worsen their conditions.
“I would like to encourage other parents to begin early interventions with their children who have this syndrome. Because early discovery gives a better chance for the child to gain full recovery before he or she becomes an adult. Locate agencies that deal with children that have this condition. From pregnancy this syndrome can be detected”, she said.