15 July 2008

Parents of cerebral palsy patients fight planned suspension of treatment

Dozens of families with children suffering from cerebral palsy held a sit-in and filed a complaint last Saturday with the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, which plans to suspend its funding for Al-Amal Center for an unspecified period.

Al-Amal works specifically with those children suffering from cerebral palsy. The center currently assists 176 cerebral palsy patients.

In response, Labor and Social Affairs Minister Amat Al-Razaq Hummad ordered an investigation into the complaint. Hummad urged the patients’ families to be patient with the ministry, as it has a limited budget for cerebral palsy treatment.

Patients’ families say their children’s medical conditions have gotten better with the constant physical therapy. Basic therapy sessions for the one child cost the ministry approximately $200 per a month, while intensive therapy sessions, which include methods involving such things as a TheraSuit, which uses electrodes to help the children master motor skills, can run $1500 per a month.

Um Rayan Abdullah stated that her son has been receiving intensive physical therapy for two years now and he has progressed a lot. “When I brought him to the center for the first time, he couldn’t sit or move any part of his body," she said. "But now with constant therapy, he can sit and move his legs and hands,” she added happily.

The father of patient Fahd Al-Oqbi pointed out that his son received basic therapy for five months and began intensive therapy one month ago. “My son's neck was hanging when I brought him to the center for the first time, but now he can control the movement of his neck and move his body parts,” he said.

According to Al-Amal Center, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs is trying to decrease the center’s activities and intends to eventually stop providing funding altogether.

“The Fund for Handicapped Patronage and Qualification, which is directly responsible for providing supplies, has decided to stop funding the physical therapies,” notes the center’s manager, Arwa Thabet, adding, “Someone said it’s because of the budget.”

What is cerebral palsy?

The United Cerebral Palsy, or UCP, organization describes the condition as “a group of chronic conditions affecting body movement and muscle coordination. It is caused by damage to one or more specific areas of the brain, usually occurring during fetal development.”

Cerebral palsy is incurable but non-communicable, and children born with it do have the ability to improve their motor skills over time. According to the UCP, those with cerebral palsy often have muscle spasms, problems with their eyesight, hearing or speech, seizures and sometimes mental retardation.

According to Thabet, there are two types of therapy, the first of which involves pills, such as antispasmodics, which help CP patients control their seizures or movement spasms.

The second type of therapy is physical and occupational, focusing on training the children to control their large and small motor skills through gait-training machines, among other techniques. Thabet points out that the TheraSuit is considered a new type of physical treatment for CP, noting that Yemen received it well before any of the Gulf countries brought it to their shores.

“I have 11 Egyptian employees, each of whom is paid at least $1,000,” Thabet explains. “If the Fund for Handicapped Patronage and Qualification decides to stop funding our center completely, I’ll be forced to dismiss at least half of them because the financial burden will be too great.”

Thabet adds that the center also receives approximately $2,000 every six months from the World Health Organization.

Former Minister of Health and Population, Najeeb Ghanem, says more than 100,000 Yemeni children have cerebral palsy. “Most of these children belong to poor communities, so their disabilities create an additional burden for their families; therefore, they are considered the poorest among the poor,” he explains.

According to statistics from the Central Apparatus for Oversight and Accountability, more than a million children in Yemen are mentally and physically disabled, approximately 100,000 of whom have cerebral palsy

1 comment:

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