In the intricate world of parenting, the journey of mothers in Nigeria raising children with special needs unveils a saddening narrative of resilience, heartbreak, and the desperate quest for support. In a nation grappling with resource constraints, particularly in the realm of healthcare, these mothers bear the colossal weight of caregiving, wrestling with emotional turmoil, financial strain, and a system that often fails to provide adequate assistance. The turning point for Modupe Famodun came in early 2015 when her baby son was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the Federal Neuropsychiatry Hospital in Lagos.
This unexpected news plunged her into an emotional abyss, grappling with the reality of her son’s condition. The burden of care, especially in resource-restricted countries like Nigeria, falls disproportionately on parents, amplifying the challenges faced by mothers who find themselves thrust into the role of primary caregivers. A study by Nigerian psychiatrist and researcher Andrew Olagunju sheds light on the profound impact of a child’s disability on the psychological well-being of the caregiver, with mothers shouldering the brunt of these challenges. Famodun’s journey epitomizes this struggle, as she faced overwhelming anxiety and guilt in the months following her son’s diagnosis.
Financial strain for parents of special needs kids in Nigeria.
The emotional roller-coaster is a common thread among mothers navigating the complex terrain of raising children with special needs. Stella Igbokwe, whose child was diagnosed with hydrocephalus, vividly expresses the financial strain, spending more on her child’s care than she earns from selling fruit on the streets. The inadequacies of healthcare resources and limited insurance coverage in Nigeria push caregivers into a world of high out-of-pocket expenses, exacerbating the already challenging circumstances. The global call for effective social protection policies for people with disabilities, as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, reverberates in Nigeria.
However, the implementation of such policies remains a stumbling block. The Lagos State Disability Fund, established to enforce the 2011 Lagos State Special People’s Law, faces criticism for its poor implementation and allegations of fund misappropriation, leaving families without the promised support. Despite these hurdles, a glimmer of hope emerges in privately-owned caregiving centres like Flora’s Trust Centre. Founded by Chikaodili Ugochukwu, a mother with a teenage son living with cerebral palsy, the centre provides respite for mothers like Stella Igbokwe.
They find support in community bonds and private care centres.
But the financial sustainability of such centres becomes a critical concern, with Ugochukwu highlighting the need for parents to pay subsidised fees to cover operational expenses until more sponsors can be attracted. The struggle for mothers doesn’t end with financial burdens. The societal misconception that diligent adherence to treatment plans will lead to recovery becomes a false hope. Lilian Akuma, a physiotherapist, points out that the transition from childhood to adolescence and eventually adulthood is often overlooked, leaving caregivers unprepared for the lifelong commitment required.
Amidst the challenges, facilities like the Child and Adolescent Centre offer a semblance of solace for mothers. For Wemimo Akinwunmi, the centres is more than a healthcare institution; it is a family house where parents support each other emotionally and financially. The sense of community and understanding becomes a lifeline for these mothers, helping them navigate the intricate tapestry of parenting children with special needs. Modupe Famodun’s journey reflects the resilience that can be found in the face of adversity. From isolation and despair, she emerged stronger, becoming an advocate not just for her son but for other mothers facing similar challenges.
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Her story underscores the importance of community support and effective social policies in empowering mothers to overcome the hurdles posed by raising children with special needs. As we delve into the nuanced world of these mothers, it becomes evident that the challenges they face go beyond the individual; they are systemic. A comprehensive and empathetic approach is essential to address the emotional, financial, and societal burdens these mothers bear, providing a foundation for a more inclusive and supportive future for families raising children with special needs in Nigeria.