Liberia’s past, present, and future is one that pains us and makes us think about what it means to be non African. A child was accused of being an obstruction to his step-mother’s business extension and progress. The allegations against the child include turning himself into animal and harming things. Because children cannot guard themselves against such allegations coming from adults, they are left susceptible and often designated as witches. But Liberia is not the exception in Africa, as this IRIN story expands. The charges of child witchcraft are on the rise in sub-Saharan Africa supported by urbanization, poverty, conflict and fragmenting communities.This is creating a “multi-crisis” for already susceptible children, says the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
A wide spectrum of children are at danger, including orphans, street-children, albinos, those with physical disabilities such as autism, those with aggressive or solitary temperaments, children who are unusually talented; those who were born untimely or in unusual positions, and twins.
Broadly-speaking, the notion of sorcery can be converted to the ability to damage someone through the use of “mystical power”.
Most of the accused are boys and most aged 8-14, says the report, Children Accused of Witchcraft; an anthropological study of contemporary practices in West Africa. Some of the countries with the highest commonness rates include Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo and Nigeria, according to the report.
No comprehensive study has been made to indicate the extent of the phenomenon, says Joachim Theis, UNICEF’s child protection counsellor in West Africa. However, according to discrete studies, 6 thousands children have been accused of witchcraft living in homes in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi in the DRC; MbanzaKongo capital of Zaire Province, Uige and Luanda in northern Angola; and a large number in Akwa Ibom state in southeastern Nigeria.
Charged children end up being attacked, burned, beaten, and sometimes killed, according to the researchers. Exorcisms can include forcing children to fast; putting petrol into children’s eyes or ears, beatings and being forced to swallow various substances. Many confessions are taken out under duress or violence, says the report.This has to end and awareness and education is the perquisite.
Autism in Ivory Coast: An alternation between the ignorance and the seek of knowledge – October 21, 2016
African society leaders are concerned about autism education and services in their countries. In other developing countries such as China, over a million people are suffering from autism. Unfortunately, in Africa there is a lack of sufficient data caused in part by the discrimination and stigma against children and adults with autism. What is needed are centers which provide developmental assistance and education. Some such special centers, are already up and running in very few areas or countries in Africa.
According to the chief of the World Autism Organization, only 1 in 1000 people developed autism decades ago. Now that figure is 100 in 1000, an alarming rate of increase.
Therapies such as specific education programs, medicine, strict dietary regimes and supplements are bronchial. About one in four autistic children follow such diets. Many parents of autistic children make sure that their children do not consume these basic ingredients of food. These diets can be hard to follow while ensuring that children are enough nourished. Yet, the British Medical Journal did some research that showed that while it may be helpful for some children, it is generally not linked with improvements in the condition.
Because of her autistic son, who was diagnosed with this illness, Brigitte Kobena, who served as Miss Ivory Coast, founded the Autism Community of Africa. She has done much
by way of advocacy and promoting awareness about autism in a region where it is feared and not widely understood. Many believe that autism is a manifestation of possession made or cursed by evil spirits or as a bad omen. Ms. Kobena has inspired many other mothers to not feel ashamed of their autistic children and to give them love and affection.
Autism in Ghana: Injustice and Ignorance – October 5, 2016
Having a child with autism, in Ghana, is viewed by most people as a curse on the family, or worse, the mother is still classified as a witch; mother and child are avoided by society. No one wants to know or care about them. Many people are not seeking the necessary aid that they need; instead they are hiding their autistic children at home, locking them up in their rooms, and denying their basic human rights.
Family is the first main cause in Ghanaian society, and also is the biggest offender of this terrible act, and second, some churches just want to exorcise this “demon” away. The level of ignorance is unacceptable, and that what led to this horrible situation. Sadly today, even among the well known disability groups in Ghana, autism as a disability is
considered to be a lesser disability. The interventions in communication for autism include in many cases picture exchange communication and sign language for those who are non-verbal and also to help those who cannot verbally express themselves properly. There are also sensory imbalances which make them candidates for a combination of visual, spatial and auditory modes of instruction and accommodations to facilitate functioning and inclusion.
Autism impacts the whole being and total functioning of the individual unlike the physical disabilities which impact only a particular part of the individual. Though some persons with autism may have intellectual disability, others have normal or higher than normal Intelligence quotations but because they are not properly understood, their intellect, skills and talents are left undeveloped.
Many children in mainstream schools have autism but they can express themselves, suffer from discrimination, teasing from their peers and teachers and many do not even have desks and books, and the teachers claim that they don’t sit in the class and don’t let them participate in activities.
To read more: http://www.autismaroundtheglobe.org/countries/Ghana.asp
Autism in Cameroon: a witchcraft curse – September 28, 2016
In Cameroon autism is referred to nothing other than something mysterious and paranormal. Thus, people suffering from this disorder, witness great social distress and discrimination and walk with immense social dismissal marks on their foreheads, the same way AIDS patients do. Trying to create awareness on this malady, the United Nations founded a World Autism Awareness Day.
According to the UN, autism is a lasting developmental disability that appears itself during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological dysfunction compromising the functioning of the brain. It mainly impacts children without regard to race or socio-economic status and is often characterized by impaired social interactions and verbal or non-verbal communication as well as restricted, repetitive or stereotyped behavior.
Although the Cameroonian government is highly tangled by imparting information and awareness regarding autism as a health problem to the population, their efforts are usually seen as a mischievous ploys to steal public funds. Consequently, many of the Cameroonian inhabitants still believe that the disease is of a superstitious nature and origin.
Indeed, because of the inaccuracy and the disrepute of autism as a disease, according to the UN, the high percentage of cases of autism in children around the world has a horrifying effect on their lives and their families. In Cameroon, people with this developmental disorder are often discriminated against and see their human dignity violated; serious enough to flay the sensitivity of human rights and commit moral crime. In fact, whether considering this condition in terms of superstition, there is enough to see these people as abnormal ones, not people like everyone else, but victims of paranormal influences.
Thus, the parents and families of these patients are covered with lasting disgrace and stress.This exposes them not only to insults and mockery, but also to extortion by traditional menders and pastors who grab these opportunities to point accusing fingers at innocent family members. It is therefore not surprising to find that in every family in Cameroon with an autistic child, an uncle, aunt, grandfather or even father is looked upon as being responsible for the genesis of the patient´s condition.
For the United Nations however, the main problems affecting these families are the lack of adequate resources for the foundation of appropriate health facilities in developing countries to educate people. Like AIDS stigma and discrimination, which then link them in such societies, constitute important barriers to diagnosis and treatment.
Diagnosing the “evil” therefore manifests as one of the most substantial steps. But this diagnosis requires the active participation of parents. What is the way they can be motivated to do so, if not through relentless media campaigns? The media is a powerful tool in every developing and developed country and will definitely attract the necessary attention this condition needs to be given in our society. Massive outreach campaigns and awareness of autism appears to be increasing necessity, as one child out of 60 in Cameroon is autistic. This method will help improve awareness and identify victims through free consultations.
The problem is that campaigns are not given the right contribution and therefore must first be instituted as a result of political will. The government must be able to show that its pledges do not remain theoretical but also practical before people. In fact, it must start believing them, which is the case of the whole African countries and some of the Middle Eastern ones. It’s complicated, but very much possible to achieve if the will is there.
Autism in Algeria: Nearly one hundred thousand of autistic kids prohibited from schools – September 27, 2016
Many parents of children who suffer from autism have complained of the refusal of a majority of nurseries to accept their children. Other kindergartens invest in this disorder, and raise the price to a rate three times higher, if they agree to take kids with autism. All these occur in the absence of competent centers in Algeria.
The number of autistic children in Algeria has reached 90,000 cases. Private and public schools don’t accept them and the nurseries have increased the charge on their parents, making their destiny unknown in Algeria.
Based on the advice of specialists, nurseries are considered to be a suitable place were autistic kids can be integrated with regular children. This is because this inclusion of kids are considered brilliant and very ingenious, and the law which governs the nurseries do not stop or force them to receive autistic children.
On the other hand, to ensure the education of children with special needs, the National Ministry of Education plans,with the contribution of the Ministry of National Solidarity, to double the number of sections for children with special needs especially for those with autism.
The Minister of Education noted in this regard that there are currently 142 educational institutions in 22 states whohave opened divisions within the educational institutions for this category. School attendance of autistic children has reached 1236, which is not really remarkable compared to the huge number of autistic children who are really in need for specific education.
Autism in South Africa: A Matter Of Perspective: Having a child with autism in S.A. – September 22, 2016
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of combined disorders of brain development. ASD is a neurological disability and people with it may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people.
The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can vary from gifted to severely impaired. Some people with ASD need high support while others need low upkeep.
There are currently no credible propagation studies indicating figures in South Africa (due to stigma, absence of access to medical interventions, under-diagnosis, over diagnosis, cultural misperceptions; etc.). A major researcher in South Africa based at UCT estimates that approximately 3% of the population is affected by ASD.
Autism can be treated. There are many intervention strategies e.g. applied behavioral analysis, TEACCH, behavioral interventions and so on. Some individuals respond well to bio-medical interventions such as a change in diet, and others don’t.
The aim of the study is to supply evidence for policy review and donate models. Therefore, the department of social development has place first the developmental rights of children with autism, and is presently achieving community-based authorization programs for parents of children with autism. The department is also cooperating with Autism South Africa, among others, in a research project to set the actual pension of autism to the family.
The department motivates families of children with autism to stand up for their rights by making sure that they are registered in early childhood development programs, that they access health and reclamation services, and that all children between the ages of 7 and 15 years are registered in school.
Interestingly enough, 10 children a week are collectively diagnosed with ASD between Red Cross Children’s Hospital, Lentegeur and Tygerberg Hospitals in the Western Cape.
Precise national autism statistics in South Africa are difficult to come by, but with just 10 specifically tailored schools in the entire country, hundreds of thousands of autistic children are not getting the specialized education they need. Other familiar facts are that ASD is 4 times more prevalent in boys than girls and that 1 autistic child needs the same amount of attention as 10 neuro-typical children.
Autism in Libya: the need for more research and planned services – September 21, 2016
Autism is a spectrum disorder with states ranging from a relatively mild problem with social interaction to more intense difficulties in behavior, such as not speaking, following hard routines and social isolation. It is predestined that around 1 in 100 children between 4 and 10 years of age have autism. Studies in developed countries have reported up to 70 cases per 10 000 children aged 0–17 years of all forms of autistic spectrum disorders. Comparable figures, however, are not available for Libya.
Data on autism are lacking for Libya. We conducted a hospital-based study in the neurodevelopment clinic of AI-Khadhra Hospital in Tripoli to estimate the prevalence of autistic spectrum disorders in children attending the clinic. All children referred to the clinic between 2005 and 2009 with a diagnosing of speech and language disorders or behavioral difficulties were considered.
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study in Libya on autism with a high response proportion and collaboration from the parents. The example is representative of the Libyan population because, despite the large size of Libya, it is mostly desert with few medical services and thus most of the health services and expert clinics in which these children and families are seen are based in Tripoli. Because ASDs are diagnosed on the basis of behavioral criteria and doctors might apply criteria in other ways to arrive at a diagnosing of autism and related subtypes, determining prevalence is challenging.
The methodology in our study gave an ASD prevalence of 1 in 332 children (approximately 3 per 1000 children) and an autism prevalence of 1 in 257 (approximately 4 per 1000 children) for children attending our clinic. These numbers are significantly inferior than other larger studies in developed countries and probably do not reflect the true prevalence of the disease in our community because of the absence of proper research facilities, lack of awareness and social stigma associated with the disease which make revelation of cases difficult, particularly early revelation.
To read more: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21920990
Autism awareness in Nigeria – August 31, 2016
With the complexity of the pervasive developmental disorder; ASD is a lifelong developmental disability which provides the way a person communicates and relates with people around them. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, not much is known of it and stigmatization of children living with this condition makes it even more difficult to deal with. It is estimated that 1 in 160 children around the world is affected and about 200,000 Nigerian children are affected too.
Awareness is necessary towards helping patients live a real meaningful life. It is great to see the effort by Nigerians to bring Autism awareness into Nigeria, but it is still a very far cry and lots still needs to be done to backup children and adults living with the condition in Nigeria. I can clearly say that the enormous society in Nigeria have got a lot to do to reinforce and provide a good quality of life to people living with Autism.
A society, like the Nigerian one, still feels that autism can only be a condition associated with witchcraft and demonic powers.Over 1 million people in Nigeria live with autism today. So awareness is much overdue and some support should be available to every child and adult living with the condition.This is not easy, because the children after being diagnosed with the condition can barely have any improvement in their lives because of inadequate services.
However, if the right support was given to them, just watch them read so fluently and excel so much in their academics that it would be a dream comes true.
Studies indicate a low level of autism knowledge and awareness even among health care workers. The majority of these studies have been from south eastern Nigeria and among health workers other than medical doctors. Medical doctors play an essential role in health care delivery in Nigeria. Their knowledge of autism, in any health care setting, is critical to the provision of optimal services and reduction of the burden associated with autism. This is the first study, to the best of our knowledge, which assesses the knowledge of autism and management challenges among medical doctors in northern Nigeria.
The aim of this study was to highlight any knowledge gap and management challenges encountered, with a view to addressing them and consequently improving autism outcomes in our environment.
Autism in Tanzania – August 22, 2016
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a critical neuro-developmental disorder beginning in childhood and is increasingly recognized worldwide. Recent statistics mention an increase from 1 out of every 100 children to almost one out of every 60 children in USA. It has also been increasingly recognized in many African countries.
In Tanzania, we are observing a large gap in information on the knowledge, prevalence and care of children with ASD.
A systemic search and a full treatise of the existing information about ASD in Tanzania was done using different devices, including interviewing key persons, visiting facilities and identifying potential resources available for improved care of children with ASD.
The clinical presentation of ASD in Tanzania is still devious. The only published study available from Tanzania is a case series of 15 children with ASD. This study used the ADI-R translated into Kiswahili to examine 20 children previously diagnosed with autism in a school in Dar Essalam, Tanzania. This tool helps to identify the verbal versus non-verbal cases of ASD and has been in place since the early 90s.
The proportion of non-verbal cases was found to be higher than in developed countries. Seven of the cases had suffered from malaria and three out of the 15 cases had entirely normal development through the first two years of life acquired and autism immediately after having severe malaria. Thus, considering a possible contagious etiology, the numbers of patients studied are too small to give a meaningful indication on etiology.
To read more: https://news.brown.edu/articles/2014/09/tanzania
Autism in Egypt – August 19, 2016
This was the first study ever done on the cost consequences of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Egypt or any other developing country.
A statistical sample of 185 households, with at least 1 autistic family member, in the Greater Cairo Region was surveyed. Households were drawn from 3 distinct geographic clusters (urban, suburban and rural). In addition, relevant ASD policies were content analyzed.
We find that care and support for autistic Egyptian children and adults are typically based on a household-provider model, in contrast to western, institution-based models.
ASD costs in Egypt largely originate from much higher investments in time, attention and behavioral acclimation on the part of family caregivers. Hence, autism cost consequences in Egypt significantly differ from many developed countries.
Opportunity and transaction costs, feedback effects and spillover consequences of the household-provider model should be carefully considered in health policy formulation. Making autism care and support available, affordable and reliable should be a major health concern of the state.
Cultural context may significantly influence the age of noticing abnormality, the age of starting intervention, developmental and perinatal problems, family concerns about managing the problem as well as neurodevelopmental disorders, which has an important impact on clinical symptomatology and severity of autism. Culture also influences significantly the ways of investigating and treating autism.
Autism in Uganda – August 18, 2016
Autism is one of the most challenging conditions in the world, with no known cause or cure. Up until a few years ago autism cases in Uganda were classed as “witch craft” and people with autism often referred to in local dialect (Luganda) as ‘kasiru’ loosely translated as dense and worthless.
While there is growing acknowledgment of this condition in the developed world, there it is hardly understood in countries like Uganda.
According to the US Centre for Disease Control, autism is predestined to affect an estimated 1 in 260 childbirths. In Uganda, this would mean that more than a hundred of thousands of children and adults are on the autistic spectrum.
Facilities and services for children with special needs in Uganda are inadequate and are generalized, mixing children with diverse disorders and further hindering development for autistic children.
While autistic children themselves may not perceive stigma which is often transported by the parents who have to apologize and attempt to explain their children’s behavior. Because parents are incapable to explain their children’s behavior in every instance, they sometimes choose to isolate the children and leave them out of public activities; for some parents, and mostly for mothers.
These parents need support and information, and would benefit greatly if the community were better informed about autism. This is why advocacy is so important.
Autism in Ethiopia – August 8, 2016
Some social interaction, communication and behavioral deficits have to be present before the diagnosis of autism is appropriate. Though all people with autism show the same specific pattern of impairments, the gravity of these impairments vary from case to case, with some people demonstrating comparatively moderate impairments and others demonstrating severe impairments.
Rural Health Extension Workers in Ethiopia extradited training in mental health and childhood developmental disorders such as autism and intellectual disability for the first time. Up to 1 in 100 children in Ethiopia may be smitten by autism, but the diagnostic and educational centers are only in Addis Ababa and therefore it is inaccessible to the majority of the country’s population living in rural villages.
This revealed a great need for more training in early disclosure, particularly in children, and special support in tackling the stigma that often leads to smitten individuals being concealed by their families.
Autism in Ethiopia confronts a lot of disgrace even by the parents; their children are locked down in dark rooms being chained to control their unusual behavior. Officials in the US health department have agreed on an astounding fact that there are high rates of autism in young Ethiopian children’s living in the USA, the Ethiopian children’s are two to seven times more likely to suffer from autism.
In Ethiopia there is only one operating center in the capital, giving a special teaching for autistic children who are lucky to be there but these children are still looking for more special education.
To read more: http://www.ethioautism.org/Joy/Autism_in_Ethiopia.html
Autism In Morocco: No Money, Yes Crying – July 21, 2016
The concept of the autism spectrum has expanded widely in many circles over the past three decades. In the U.S., for example, some people who are “on the spectrum” are, in fact, exceptionally autonomous and capable: they graduate college, hold jobs, live independently, write books, raise children of their own.
But in Morocco, the diagnosis is typically (though not exclusively) applied to people with more dramatic symptoms. The reasons for this are multiple and debated, but for present purposes we must leave them aside. However, autism care in Morocco is intense. This is partly due to the characteristics of some of the people so diagnosed.
It is perhaps unsurprising that there are significant inequalities in autism education and care in Morocco. Indeed, the Moroccan healthcare and education systems, more broadly, are riddled with inequities.
And there is no doubt that caring for severely autistic children and adults is often challenging the world over. But the political and economic structure of the field of autism care in Morocco creates an unusually complicated scenario as different kinds of inequalities and expectations collide. If you are going to have an autistic child in Morocco, you need to be very rich.
This is a truthful matter that does exist. However, even families with means and influence shave difficulties in finding appropriate services for their child. It isn’t easy for them either and their struggles are just about sufficient to keep their efforts on-going – the classrooms, the preparations, the funds and wages, the continuous commitment.
By the time they achieve something positive, they have exhausted all their efforts and are totally worn out because the quality of the education still has limitations. However, their battle to make available special education and social belonging will inevitably help their child have a better life, and therefore, it was truly worth it.
Autism in Kenya – July 20, 2016
Many authorities in the early 2000s considered autism to be one of several similar conditions that fall on a spectrum, hence the term autism spectrum disorders. The conditions on the spectrum share impairments in three areas: communication skills, social interactions, and repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior.
Classic autism and Asperger syndrome are the most common conditions. Whereas students with autism have relatively severe deficits in all three areas plus severe cognitive deficits, those with Asperger syndrome generally have less severe deficits in all three areas, with their major problem lying in the area of social interactions and some having very high intelligence.
In Kenya, the research is limited. One paper carried out informal interviews and found that especially in the rural areas there is blame placed on witchcraft and sorcery for the cause of autism. Children are therefore hidden instead of treatment being sought. There is no support for the family. Furthermore, the paper elaborated on the treatment protocols in Kenya and the two most used with varying success are Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and TEACCH.
However, these protocols are time consuming, costs a lot of money and can place severe of strain on the family. They involve hours of work with the affected child daily, there needs to be cooperation between the school and the family. This can be limiting too many families in Kenya who may live in the rural areas or not have the access to the resources that are needed.
Furthermore this study highlights how culture, the family and the government can have an effect on the diagnosis and treatment protocol for mental illness. Culture plays such an important role in many Kenyan families. When culture cannot explain an issue it becomes spiritual, or a curse and this is how mental illness is explained in many homes. This was corroborated by both the article and in personal conversations with a professional in Nairobi who works primarily with ASD.
Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in Africa: The Need to Know – July 19, 2016
Autism awareness is becoming more prevalent in Africa where information has been slow in coming. In the Western world, autism awareness and information has been far more advanced and according to recent literature on the topic of Africa and ASD, more experts are calling for new studies of the epidemiology of ASD, which needs to be seriously addressed.
According to our knowledge at present, Africa is behind in many aspects of ASD information and knowledge. These experts are calling for more studies so we can really understand the depth of the problem in this neglected region.
Today we know that the neurotransmission disorder which prevents the child, and eventually the adult, from speaking and behaving normally in his social group, especially in Africa, can be considerably reduced through a system of constantly maintained stimulations, the first of which is communication and the love of his parents and others.
This first impetus and remedy for his distress must be linked to exercises stimulating all of the senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell) through the help of speech and physical therapists or of methods that emphasize (a) listening and hearing (the TOMATIS method), (b) associating words and pictures (the TEACH method), (c) understanding a given order or the right procedure (the ABA method), (d) horseback riding, swimming and certain sports such as karate and judo, and (e) contact with other children in preschool, choir or group games ..
But the Knowledge about ASD in Africa was noted to be low and drastic new research and data are needed to update ASD statistics on this continent.
To read more: www.ajol.info/index.php/ajpsy/article/view/69601/57612