Group calls for implementation of policy for children with special needs

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Photo: Participants at the training. 

Group calls for implementation of policy for children with special needs

The Maternal Adolescent Reproductive Child Health (MARCH) Care Initiative, an NGO, has called on government to implement Maternal Infant and Young Child Nutrition (MYCIN) Policy for children with special needs.

The President of the initiative, Mrs Lawal Aiyedun-Olubunmi, made the call during a three-day training on Nutrition for Children with Special Needs in Abuja, supported by USAID to mark 2023 World Breastfeeding Week (WBW).

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Annually commemorated from Aug. 1 to Aug. 7 around the world to raise awareness about the significance of breastfeeding, the WBW has “Enabling Breastfeeding: Making a Difference for Working Parents” as the theme for 2023.

Aiyedun-Olubunmi said the event would highlight infant and young child nutrition in exceptionally difficult circumstances, curbing the burden of cerebral palsy and scaling up health insurance coverage for children with special needs.

She commended the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) Nutrition Department for integrating children with special needs in the MYCIN policy, while calling on government to implement the policy across the country.

She added that “before an intervention can be meaningful, there must be a policy, and with a policy in place, NGOs and partners can advocate and make demands from relevant authorities and stakeholders.

“Two years ago, we started policy formulation on nutrition and the government, led by FMoH, included adolescent pregnancy and infant nutrition, nutrition in emergency and feeding in exceptionally difficult circumstances which covers children with special needs.

“Parents of children with special needs require intervention, their life is grossly affected by the condition of their children, they can’t keep stable jobs, and the financial burden is very high.

“The nutrition policy is completed, we are now at implementation which is very important and we are calling on government across all states to key in and support families and children with special needs.”

Dr Ogbu Onyilo of Benue State University, Department of Paediatrics, said the benefits of breastfeeding and nutrition cannot be over emphasised for infants and children with special needs.

Onyilo said children with neurological disorders such as cerebral palsy commonly have problems with their body movement, intellectual cognitive function, intellectual capacity, vision, swallowing food, among others.

He, therefore, gave tips and strategies for nurturing children with cerebral palsy, advising parents to position their children in an upright position before feeding so that the food can go the right way without aspirating.

He said “the frequency or consistency of their food is encouraged, mothers should give them semi-solid foods, containing all classes of food, adequate water in a slow and steady manner.”

Dr Iloh Kenechukwu of University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, spoke on coping mechanism, and advised parents and caregivers to have a good support system from the immediate, and extended family and other support groups.

Other tips, he said, include caregivers taking care of themselves, seeking help and sharing experiences and not get into compassion fatigue, thereby burning out and becoming ineffective to themselves and the children.

Kenechukwu called on government to improve the working environment of health facilities across the country and remuneration to reduce the number of health personnel leaving the country.

Mrs Regina Eva-Gugong, a health worker, said the programme was enlightening, and thanked MARCH Initiative for the training.

She said, “this training has taught me to show more professional, emotional and physical support to families and children with special needs and I hope such initiative can be implemented in other states.”

Mr Oluwole Odeyemi, a parent, said negligence on the part of some health workers made his son to develop cerebral palsy, however, appreciated the organisers for the training.(NAN)

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