*Partners kind-hearted Nigerians to give 4 million to persons with disabilities
The Founder of Benola Cerebral Palsy Initiative, Air Vice Marshal Femi Gbadebo (rtd) has called for proper domestication of Special Persons Bill, stressing that such bill will go a long way in alleviating the plight of people living with disabilities in the society.
Gbadebo made this call during an interview with Newsbeats.
He regretted that the bill which was signed in to law in 2019 had not really impacted people living with disabilities positively.
According to him, Lagos State in 2011, passed the Special Persons Bill, which it followed with the establishment of Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs (LASODA), adding that a number of states have followed suite, particularly in the last five years.
In his words: “At the Federal level, Mr. President appointed a Senior Special Adviser on Disability Affairs, signed the Special Persons Bill 2018 into law in January 2019 and recently set up a Disability Affairs Commission with a Board, but sadly those directly affected are yet to feel the impact of all these developments in their lives.”
On the cash palliatives outreach the initiative recently organised in lieu of Benola’s 8th national Cerebral Palsy Family Forum, he said was necessary so as to assist the children and parents with Cerebral Palsy in the COVID-19 era.
“The exercise which was done with the support of kind-hearted Nigerians offered twenty thousand naira each to over two hundred families across some states in the federation which according to him amounted to four million naira.
“Our experience with the palliatives given out by both Federal and Lagos State government was that little or no attention were paid to persons with disabilities and even when Lagos State tried to reach out to this group, the families of children with special needs like Cerebral Palsy were poorly treated.’’
Still on the cash palliatives, he said: “The first task was to decide on an amount that would make meaningful impact on the life of a CP family and a number of beneficiaries that would not overstretch our friends. After due consideration, the sum of Twenty thousand naira and 200 beneficiaries was arrived at. Next was the modalities for fundraising and identification of eligible beneficiaries was drawn up and the process commenced.
“Of course there were those who felt the sum of ₦20,000 for 200 CP families and adults which came up to 4million naira, was much and likely to be a huge challenge to raise. We also decided to use bank transfers to remit the cash palliatives. All these details were clearly stated both donors and potential beneficiaries and to the glory of God, enough people believe in us and by the end of the deadline for the palliatives we had a little over 4 million or 100.05 percent of our target was raised”.
While commending the efforts of the donors, he appealed to corporate organisations and well-meaning Nigerians to come to the aid of persons living with disabilities, adding that the pandemic had introduced more hardship to them and their families.
“The average Nigerian has really suffered, but what they have gone through is just a fraction of what persons with disabilities, especially children with special needs now go through each day.
“Take for instance like beggars struggling to survive, a lot of special needs parents lost their jobs, most of those still working are on half salaries, while lots of teachers who have not been paid for months. The situation in the private sector is even worse. “Meanwhile prices are rising every day and while one may be able to survive on food rations, there are some medications that special needs children can only miss out at great risk to their health.
“We must recognize the fact that the lockdown also affected the professionals taking care of our special needs children, like my son whose Physiotherapist has not been able to come to our house for over 6 months now. Yes, we may be trying in one way or the other, but he has missed out from that aspect of professional help. There is also the sad reality that, the therapist themselves are not be able to earn income, so it effects everyone”, he added.
On the other hand, he observed that persons living with disabilities face a lot of discrimination. He said: “Due to the high level of stigma in our society, people with developmental/learning disabilities particularly Cerebral Palsy, those on wheelchairs, the deaf, and the blind, unfortunately, the government does not carter for them properly, no planning for them from the government to private sectors levels, conveniences are virtually not in existence, in public places like schools, markets and Malls”.