Parents who have children with disabilities struggle so much to create an accommodating and inclusive atmosphere for their children because of the way society perceives Persons with Disability (PWDs). They incur extra costs in making sure that their wards with disability are not left behind or secluded from their peers. It is for this reason that the Irede Foundation dedicates its works to putting smiles on the faces of children amputees in Nigeria. They do this by providing prosthetic limbs to children amputees from ages one to 18 to enable them to have some form of independence.
Over the years, the foundation has been staging the Out–On–A–Limb walk to advocate inclusion for PWDs and to be their mouthpiece against stigmatization in society. For the past 10 years, the foundation has remained faithful to the provision of artificial limbs to children and amputees free of charge. The foundation is giving out about 200 limbs to children amputees in 2023.
Speaking to newsmen in Lagos, the Executive Director of Irede Foundation, Mrs Crystal Chigbu, says the foundation’s beginning was quite emotional and filled with wonder.
Chigbu tells the story of how she gave birth to her first daughter with congenital limbs and how the search for meaning and solution for her family gave birth to the foundation.
She says that it is like walking on the road less traveled, but added that looking back she remains grateful to God and to the sponsors of the foundation; NNPC, SNEPCo, Prembly, and P & G for their huge support.
The executive director says that the foundation has moved further to advocating for the rights of PWDs, fighting against stigmatization, and advocating for the inclusion and education of PWDs.
She affirms the possibility of a child amputee living life to its fullest.
“One thing that is also very crucial as we think of limb loss awareness month is that different things cause limb loss. For some children or people, it’s congenital; so, they were born with a congenital deformity and some come about it by negligence,” Chigbu says.
She notes that the lack of seeking proper medical care at the right time sometimes leads to amputation in some people.
“One of the rising cases of the reason for amputation in the world today is diabetes, so from time to time we continue to engage with a lot of people that have their limbs amputated,” Chigbu says.
She adds that the 2023 Out-On-A-Limb walk is targeted at advocating for an inclusive society for PWDs in about 60 locations across the world where the walk took place.
Wuruola Kayode, Senior Programmes Lead, Irede Foundation, says the media play a critical role in advocating for the rights and needs of Persons with Disability (PWDs).
Kayode recalls how media advocacy in 2022 brought in a lot of referrals to the foundation.
According to her, there is a need for greater synergy between the foundation and media representatives.
She notes that there is much the foundation can do through the collaboration of the media and good-spirited individuals who can support the work of the foundation.
The senior programmes manager believes a solid media partnership will help the foundation fulfill its role of putting smiles on the face of PWDs.
For Abimbola Odukoya, Programmes Officer, Irede Foundation, the foundation approaches PWDs in a holistic manner to ensure that no child is left behind.
He says that some children are not able to access education because of their disability, adding that the foundation is focusing on giving access to education to these categories of children.
According to him, the association does a lot of advocacy work in ensuring that PWDs have access to quality education.
It also ensures that schools and authorities provide the infrastructure that serves the needs of PWDs.
He added that the foundation enjoins well-meaning Nigerians to contribute their quota to the empowerment of PWDs by providing inclusive education.
Jamiu Bamgbose, a volunteer for the Irede inclusion walk at Alimosho, expresses delight in taking part in the disability walk.
Bamgbose, who describes himself as an advocate for inclusion and equality says he loves bringing smiles on the faces of the less privileged in the society.
Also, Moshood Sanni, Chief Operating Officer, of Smak Foundation and Mandela Washington Fellow, argues that absolute inclusion implies removing the barriers of PWDs to accessing full social and economic opportunities.
“I have long realized that lack of access to the physical environment and transportation, the unavailability of assistive devices and technologies, and non-adapted means of communication for the hard of hearing/deaf were major challenges on the way of PWDs to participate in the affairs of the economy.
“Joining the 2023 Out–On–A–Limb Walk will alleviate or reduce drastically the level of discrimination, prejudice, and stigma against PWDs in society.
“Despite the ratification of PWDs rights by over 185 countries by the UN, most developing nations still perceive PWDs as those who deserved charity rather than acknowledging their fundamental rights.
“I hope that the walk will assist policymakers in making informed decisions as to the needs of children and people with special needs.”
At the rally held in Kogi State, Mr Peter Onyekwuo, the Kogi Coordinator of the foundation, describes the walk as a “huge success” and “historic”, being the first edition in the state.
He notes that the walk serves as enlightenment and sensitization to the residents of Kogi on inclusion for PWDs.
Onyekwuo says, asides from children, ages one to 18, the foundation also offers opportunities for adults who may also be in need of a limb.
“The difference is that adults are expected to pay half of the cost unlike that of children that is for free,” he said.
He said that the foundation was also going around placing handbills in banks, hospitals, supermarkets/shopping malls, hotels, eateries/restaurants, and parks.
“It is towards sensitizing the public of the presence and offers of the foundation to the residents of the state,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that April is dedicated as Limb Loss Month and the foundation is leaving no stone unturned in its crusade for inclusion for PWDs.
The walk for inclusion took place in 60 locations across the world including Lagos, Delta, Edo, Bayelsa, Kogi, Kenya, the US, Luxembourg, Texas, Netherlands, and Dublin, to mention a few.