• Friday, June 14, 2024
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Medical care eludes disabled Nigerians on fear of infection


Nigerians with disabilities are struggling to secure routine medical treatment owing to the continued spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Femi Gbadebo, founder of Benola Cerebral Palsy Initiative, has had to suspend the services of his son’s physiotherapist since the Covid-19 became the subject of domestic concern, for fear of the virus complicating the child’s condition.

Olaoluwa Gbadebo, 24, was confirmed to be suffering from cerebral palsy following a diagnosis that revealed developmental delays at birth. He is a completely dependent young man who relies on the support of family and carers.

But what the Covid-19 has done is to yank off his routine physiotherapy procedure needed at least three times in a week, restrain his access to special drugs, increase his crisis level by 70 percent and render him more delicate to care for as he feeds through a tube, his father says, relaying his ordeal on the Doctors on Air radio programme monitored by BusinessDay.

“Having to care for him is one thing, but having the money to sustain his care is another. It has been very tasking. Everything is done for him and his use of a feeding tube makes it delicate for anyone to help him,” the senior Gbadebo notes.

Though the coronavirus outbreak has resulted in greater hardship for many physically challenged individuals, those living with developmental disabilities, especially people featuring cognitive disorders, have been of a greater burden to themselves and their caregivers.

Muhammad Salisu, a consultant paediatric neurologist at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), says their lack of personal judgment on how and when to comply with hygiene measures stipulated by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) leaves them more vulnerable.

They have faced difficulties with social distancing, using face masks, and hand washing, among others. Those without close monitoring of family could be potent routes of the community spread, which is yet to subside as confirmed cases of the virus exceeds 50,000 in Nigeria.

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“The peculiarity of Covid-19 is the ease of infection to everybody. It becomes especially difficult for people with disabilities because they are already disadvantaged. An unchallenged individual can decide to wash their hands or deliberately distance themselves from others,” Salisu states, noting that “extra support is needed beyond what is given to everybody.”

Raising concern about the poor inclusion of persons living with disabilities in the considerations that have shaped the government’s management of the pandemic, David Anyaele, executive director, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, says responses from awareness to preventive measures have largely failed to recognise the challenges of his members.

Anyaele notes that since the Covid-19 has introduced another dimension of hardship for all including the disabled, data gathering for response and management should adequately include the disabled.

“What about assisting devices, how do you manage it? If you are to depend on another person for your daily needs, how do you observe social distancing?” he asks.

For Femi Gbadebo, consideration should be given to medication as palliatives, instead of the general food item that might not be useful to some of disabled persons.

To address that gap, his organisation has raised support to the tune of N4 million and has reached out to over 50 families with N30,000 each.

“This is something that the government can do. It is amazing the number of people who have bank accounts,” Gbadebo further says.