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Burden of special children breaking up families in Kenya, State official says

NAIROBI
By Graham Kajilwa | May 14th 2016

NAIROBI: Heavy cost incurred on taking care of children with special needs has been noted as a major cause of dysfunctional families.

Deputy County Commissioner Westlands Division Sam Ojwang said given the costs, time and emotional needs each child puts on the family, most of them with children that fall in this special needs category are driven to extreme poverty.

"In some communities in Kenya, children with these conditions are not only stigmatized, and discriminated against but also remain the major cause of family break ups," said Ojwang.

Ojwang said as a result there have been increased cases of one spouse or grandparents being left to take care of these children but many have no means of enrolling them in special schools.

"Nairobi may be privileged to have more facilities for such children but the effect is felt nationwide whether urban or rural," said Ojwang.

He said it has now become the responsibility of the community at large to extend their moral, emotional and financial support to alleviate the suffering of these families and assist the children: "...lest they in turn become burden to the same society."

Ojwang made these remarks on Saturday during a nine kilometres charity walk organised by Fairmile Special School in Westlands aimed at raising Sh6 million.

The money is meant for starting the first hyperbaric treatment program in the country and construct a specialised heated swimming pool to upgrade the school's services.

Hyperbaric treatment is an advanced therapy medicine used to hasten healing of nerves and improve breathing system mostly used by divers who have been subjected to high pressure under sea.

"We have touched over 6,000 lives across the region including Uganda. It is important that the society recognizes these children without seeing them as a nuisance," said Fairmile Director Fern Eshuchi.

The children being targeted are those with Down Syndrome, Autism, Dyslexia, Cerebral palsy, Attention Deficit Disorders, slow learning milestones, Williams Syndrome and Meniere’s Syndrome.

"The more we learn from each child with a special need, the more we are able to help the next one we meet," added Eshuchi.

In Kenya, there are about 2.3 million school going children with special needs but the few number of schools (200), lack of special teachers and inadequate funding have been their major challenges.

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