By Uchechukwu Ugboaja
Gov. Yahaya Bello and his wife have launched a foundation that is specifically focused on providing care and attention for children with Cerebral Palsy and other neurological challenges. The first family of Kogi state decided to break the silence about the stigma which many families not only in Nigeria suffer but in Africa as well and other parts of the world owing to the lack of medical institutions or facilities designated to cater for such patients.
The first family whose son is 10 years old was only discovered to be suffering from the condition just months after his birth and this greatly worried the Bellos as they sort different forms of medical attention all over the world to resolve it but to no avail until they came to realise that God had given them Hayatula for a special reason which is to reach out to greater number of children suffering with such conditions and their parents as well.
The Hayat Foundation however, is a special intervention foundation that focuses on issues dealing with persons living with Cerebral Palsy and other Disabilities. The objective of the foundation according to the initiator, Barr. (Mrs.) Amina Oyiza Bello Her Excellency the wife to the Executive Governor of Kogi state, is to bring succour, support, resolutions and improve the life of persons especially children and parents to children living with cerebral palsy and other disabilities.
Giving hope to every child with cerebral palsy by providing a place of respite, parental empowerment and empowering them with skills to bring out the ability in their disability. The idea of creating a better life for persons living with this condition has become pertinent not just owing to our cultural and religious prejudices but considering the major fact that cerebral palsy is not a disease but a disorder, hence the need to deploy enormous resources to making their lives better through advocacy, awareness, sensitization and intervention.
Describing her son Hayatula, the proud mother Her Excellency said, “He is such an intelligent kid, who has not allowed the neurological challenge weigh him down as he is very sociable and interactive. She said that one of his very unique attributes is the cognitive ability to always recognise people he meets even after a long time away. I can simply tell you that he is a gift and his life has been filled with blessings especially to everyone around him and that is why we want other children to benefit from his gift.”
A medical perspective into what Cerebral Palsy (CP) is reveals that it is a disorder that affects the muscle tone, movement and motor skills of a person,usually caused by brain damage during childbirth or early stage of childhood. Although it remains a non-curable disorder it is not contagious and does not necessarily affect intelligence or cognitive ability of victims.
Records show that in African countries, especially Nigeria, no fewer than 700,000 children are discriminated or stigmatised because they think CP is contagious. Most communities hold superstitious beliefs that it is as a result of the parents’ sin while some other consider it as a spiritual attack thereby seeking different forms of healing which often ends up in abusive situations against victims.
Nigeria is yet to develop a special needs institute that can cater for needs of these children and others with special needs and this is the ultimate goal of Hayat Foundation. At Hayat Foundation the focus will be to create a Pan-African hub that will help in the expansion of global access to care and treatment of CP and other special needs. Hayat Foundation Institute will include a Library, Hospital and a Research Centre aimed at continously finding the most effective way to improve the quality of lives of people with cerebral palsy and other special needs and their families.
Hayat Foundation Institute for kids with special needs is an umbrella body for all forms of special needs because it covers all children and people with autism and persons with any form of neurological challenge be it down syndrome or cerebral palsy and of course even the blind and the lame as well. Our intention is to also set up a world class library that will contain unique materials tailored towards a dressing the needs of these people. We also intend to have a world class hospital facility which will house some of the best neurologist, orthopedic doctors that will also even address needs of people with spinal cord injuries in addition to the special needs community. We will have schools for the blind, the lame and we will also like to have graduate lecturers and NYSC corps members that desire to be special needs equipped.
Speaking with journalists at the end of the launch, the Executive Governor of Kogi state H. E Governor Yahaya Bello stated that one of his major driving forces towards ensuring qualitative health service delivery to the people of Kogi state is his son Hayatula Bello who was born with Cerebral Palsy. According to the Governor, his son’s condition is one of the reasons he takes health care in Kogi state very paramount and therefore cannot but support such laudable initiatives such as the establishment of a world class special needs institute as Hayat Foundation Institute which will cater for persons with special needs from anywhere in the world.
“It is such a wonderful privilege to have a child with special need that will take you round the whole world seeking for solution for him, it is such a divine opportunity from God to serve humanity, you would do nothing other than taking the health sector seriously, so that is why I have prioritised health as one of my thematic areas of governance and we will not stop until we reach everyone necessary.”
He further stated his personal resolve to ensure that this foundation outlives his 8years tenure. We are putting everything in place to make sure that years, decades, centuries after I have left office nobody will be able to tamper with it, because it is a gift from God.”
The Governor called on all well meaning Nigerians especially people with means to join hands and fight the stigma of Cerebral Palsy and other neurological disorders in our society. The occasion was well attended by eminent personalities which included His Royal Majesty the Ooni of Ife Adeyeye Ogunwusi, the National Security Adviser (NSA) Babagana Mongonu, and the keynote speaker was Africa’s richest woman Folorunso Alakija.
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