Foundation Urges Support for People with Down Syndrome

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The Down Syndrome Foundation of Nigeria (DSFN) on Friday urged government at all levels, corporate organisations and individuals to provide support for people with Down Syndrome in the country.

Mrs Rose Mordi, the National President of the foundation, made the appeal at a media briefing on the World Down Syndrome Day in Lagos.

World Down Syndrome Day is commemorated every March 21 to raise public awareness and create a voice for advocating for the rights, inclusion and wellbeing of people with Down syndrome.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the theme for 2015 is “My Opportunities, My Choices – Enjoying Full and Equal Rights and the Role of Families’’.

Mordi said that such support would promote social integration of children with Down syndrome to make them feel as normal as their peers.

“In the past, majority of children born with this condition never survived it; infact, their parents would keep them locked indoors, far removed from the public.

“They also never had access to medical care or other support programmes that would make them develop relatively well enough to live almost a normal life.

“Perhaps, this occurred because there was little or no information and support programme available for those with Down syndrome condition.

“Even, where they existed, it was too expensive for the average family to access.

“But, in recent times, these children with special needs are increasingly being given the opportunity to live a normal life by concerned non-governmental organisations and corporate institutions.

“ Increasingly, corporate bodies such as NSIA Insurance Company are devoting part of their budget to sponsoring some children with Down syndrome to India for corrective heart surgery,“ she said.

Mordi urged government to collaborate with her foundation to enhance the wellbeing of children with the condition and promote their integration into the society.

Also speaking, Dr Babatunde Awelenje, the General Manager of Lagos State Office of Disability Affairs (LASODA), said that Down syndrome was the most vulnerable under the intellectual disability group.

Awelenje described the condition as “a genetic disorder caused by the presence of all or part of a third copy of chromosome 21”.

He said that the condition was typically associated with physical growth delays and peculiar facial features.

Awelenje said that people with Down syndrome were also entitled to an inclusive society in the areas of employment and attitudinal behaviour of people to them.

“In other countries, people with Down syndrome are well taken care of and gainfully employed. We can do same in Nigeria rather than treating them with pity.

“I urge people with Down syndrome to register with the Lagos State Residents Registration Agency (LASRRA) to enjoy all the benefits made available by the state government for PWDs, “ he said.

In her remarks, Mrs Vivian Ikwuneme, the Head, Corporate Service of NSIA, urged other organisations to fund and support activities of the foundation to help children with Down syndrome to live meaningful lives.

“If organisations and individuals come together and support these people, the issue of stigma and deprivation in the society will be a thing of the past.

“We need to show them love and care and my organisation will continue to support the foundation to help these children to live healthy and longer lives,“ she said.

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