Ethiopian Press Agency (Addis Ababa)

11 November 2012

Ethiopia: Ray of Hope for Children With Disabilities

Sentayehu Feleqe,14, is a grade nine student. He came from Tullubolo, Oromia to Cheshire's Menagesha Rehabilitation Centre to get treatment for his leg illness. He was told that he had a polio case. Previously, before he came to Menagesha, Sentayehu was under health scrutiny of his leg in Tikur Ambesa Referral Hospital.

A doctor who works in the Hospital has advised Sentayehu to go to Menagesha and contacted Cheshire people for help. "The doctor has helped me a lot in the hospital. And he told me and my families about Menagesha Rehabilitation Centre. We, my families and I knew that the centre would be better to my leg case," he said.

He said that his leg has become getting stronger and stronger thus able to walk slowly. "There is now great change since I have come here--Menagesha Rehabilitation Centre. My leg had been bent. Now it is shaped. I think, I can walk upright on my two feet with in the shortest time posible," he said.

During the media people visit to Menagesha Rehabilitation Centre recently, it was indicated that the centre provides pre and post operative care for children with disabilities, club feet, Noma--a gangrenous disease leading to tissue destruction of the face--and cleft palate patients. The centre is providing various services to children with disabilities such as Sentayehu in Menagesha.

Sentayehu said, "For the most part, I thank my families and the doctor in the hospital. They brought me to Menagesha. They have been helping me a lot. Besides, Cheshire is assisting me," "in the future, I will play football. Look! I used to play football with my one leg. I am now getting better." Currently, Sentayehu is attending basic skills and demonstrative training in the centre.

Sawul Negere, 8, who came from Nekemte is another child at Menagesha Rehabilitation Centre. Sawul does not know when he came to Menagesha. But he knows that he is here due to his two legs injury. He could not play freely since his early days. He is eager to play as his peers are.

Asked about his future destiny, he replied that he wants to walk and play. "I want to walk. I want to play...play...and play. Yes! I would like to enjoy playing, running and running even when I grow up. My legs are getting improved. The doctors are helping me walk. I will play with my peers when I get back to Nekempte, my hometown," the child said.

Cheshire Service Ethiopia was established in 1962 with the support of Group Captain Leonard Cheshire by Prince Seble Desta and Commander Eskinder Desta, grand children of Emperor Haile-Sellasie. Though the centre was established in Addis, it then moved to Menagesha in 1967-- about 25-kms west from the capital.

According to Gebre-Medhin Bekele, Cheshire Executive Director, the organization has been providing nationwide rehabilitation services to persons with disabilities in general and children and the youth in particular. He said that Cheshire has continued expanding its operations, treating a wider range of disabilities across Ethiopia.

As to him, more than 25,000 children made to walk upright over the years by the scrupulous intervention of Cheshire. "It has reached over 1,500 children with disabilities in the Organization's community based rehabilitation. It has also sustained its outreach services in most parts of the country by providing followup services," he said.

The media crew also visited the various sections of Menagesha Rehabilitation Centre. The centre provides boarding care for amputees and produces full-fledged prosthetic orthotic devices as crutchers, orthopedic shoes and mobility cycle. It also provides accommodation, food, health care and psychosocial support to children with disabilities.

According to Gebre-Medhin, Cheshire was the pioneer of the sponsored walk idea in Ethiopia. It has been taking place since 1973, a cross-country walk through a country side around Menagesha to raise fund to children. As to him, the 50th anniversary of Cheshire and the 39th annual fund raising walk for children with disabilities will take place on 10 November 2012 around Menagesha.

Above all, he said, the organization is working to enhance the social functioning of persons with disabilities in the country through the provision of comprehensive rehabilitation services at various branches. For instance, the organization has workshops at three centres which produce orthotic and prosthesis devices for people with disabilities.

Accordingly, it contributes towards the overall development of the country by enabling persons with disabilities to take part in the life and development of the nation as fully as possible. The government is assisting the organization by donating different materials which are useful for making walking aids, he said.

According to him, Cheshire plans to expand its community based rehabilitation and outreach services with its partners in the coming years. Indeed, children with disabilities such as Sentayehu and Sawul could be treated well so that they can make their dream come true.

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