The IREDE Foundation, a Nigerian organization committed to assisting children with amputated limbs, has played a pivotal role in reshaping the lives of over 500 youngsters by providing them with free artificial limbs. In a country where the financial burden of prosthetics is impossible for many, this initiative not only facilitates mobility but also tackles the pervasive issue of social stigma. For 10-year-old Princess Igbinosa, the nightmare of a broken right leg seemed like an end to her aspirations of becoming a model, given the financial constraints on obtaining prosthetics.
Her mother, Esther Igbinosa, vividly recalls the heartbreak of hearing about the necessity to amputate Princess’s leg in 2020. “During the first few months of her amputation… I just wake up and start crying. I was like, how is she going to cope with life with an amputated leg?” she expressed. However, Princess’s story takes a positive turn as she now confidently walks with the aid of an artificial leg that seamlessly matches her skin tone.
Orthopedic surgeon stressed the importance of limb replacement.
Notably, the IREDE Foundation, founded in Lagos in 2012, has been a lifeline for children like Princess, offering free artificial limbs that would otherwise cost between $2,000 to $3,000. Executive Director Crystal Chigbu revealed that the foundation relies on crowdsourcing for up to 70% of its funding. Chigbu’s motivation to establish the foundation stems from her own daughter’s experience with limb deformity. The impact of IREDE extends beyond physical support, providing psychosocial assistance to children like Princess.
Chigbu emphasized that these young amputees can now achieve things they never thought possible. Despite the absence of precise data on the number of Nigerians living with amputated limbs, IREDE stands among several groups addressing this pressing need. Dr. Olasode Israel-Akinmokun, an orthopedic surgeon, stressed the significance of limb replacements in combating societal stigma against people with disabilities. He asserted that the prosthetics offered by organizations like IREDE function nearly as effectively as natural limbs.
Counteracting the stigma that comes with limb loss.
Beyond supplying artificial limbs, IREDE is actively engaged in educating the public about limb loss to counteract stigma. Chigbu highlighted the importance of fostering support groups among parents of affected children, challenging cultural taboos associated with disabilities. “We come from a culture of people just saying that when you have a disability it is either taboo or people just look down on you,” she stated. “We are ensuring that whether it is in the school or even when they find themselves in the workplace as they grow, that people accept them and know that they have their abilities.”
Amputees in Nigeria grapple with significant challenges as they navigate their daily activities, often increased by the limited accessibility and support structures in the country. Basic tasks that many take for granted become formidable obstacles for individuals without limbs. Simple actions like walking or using public transportation become intricate maneuvers, given the inadequate infrastructure that doesn’t accommodate the mobility needs of amputees. Navigating uneven terrain and poorly designed public spaces poses constant hurdles, impeding their independence and mobility.
Related Article: Dufil Prima donates to orphanages in Nigeria
Moreover, social stigma compounds the difficulties faced by amputees in Nigeria. Misconceptions and cultural biases contribute to an environment where individuals with limb loss encounter discrimination and exclusion. This societal prejudice extends to educational and employment opportunities, further limiting the avenues through which amputees can actively participate in daily life. As a result, amputees often find themselves confronting a dual challenge – not only contending with the physical limitations imposed by limb loss but also grappling with the societal barriers that hinder their integration into various aspects of Nigerian society.