Caring for a single child with cerebral palsy during ordinary times is a challenge for any family, let alone caring for 85 children suffering the condition during these extraordinary days of Covid-19.
A family in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County that decided to provide shelter and care for 85 children living with cerebral palsy some of whom were abandoned by their families is struggling to manage amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
As the effects of Coronavirus continues to be felt in all sectors and spheres of the society the family is struggling not only to provide food and clothing to the young children who also have other deformities, but accessing medical services including physiotherapy that is critical for children with cerebral palsy has become a major test for Patrick Korir and his wife Judith Korir.
Korir says despite challenges especially on medication to the children due to Coronavirus they have established a locally set up physiotherapy at the home to protect them from contracting the virus.
Korir who runs Jawabu children’s centre with his wife in the outskirts of Eldoret town said he decided to start the rehabilitation centre to care for the children after witnessing how children with disabilities were maltreated by a children’s home in 1996.
Speaking at the centre Korir said although they have been to caring for the children since initiating the programme, things become tougher following the outbreak of Covid-19 in Kenya March this year.
“Things have not been easy especially when taking the children to the hospital to do physiotherapy because we feared we may expose the children who already have underlying health challenges to the coronavirus,” said Korir.
“We take the children to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital, MTRH, and Mediheal for medication, regular checkup and physiotherapy, but with the outbreak of the Corona virus we decided to do the work from the rehabilitation center”, he added.
While doing physiotherapy to the children we follow the same procedure as is done in hospital and we have continued to see tremendous progress in the growth and development of the children just like when the service was being done in the hospitals, Korir said.
He says with the assistance, they have been able to care for the children by ensuring that they have a balanced diet including fruits and vegetables that are essential in the development of their bodies.
“To provide the balanced diet we initiated special needs projects like rearing chicken to provide white meat as well as eggs for the children. We have also kept one dairy cow to provide us with milk,” he said.
Because the rehabilitation centre is located in the outskirts of Eldoret most of the children admitted are brought from neighbouring estates and those abandoned by parents from diverse backgrounds.
”The children who are brought in from neighbouring Estate like Langas, Kipkaren and Kaptagat are usually in a sorry state due to neglect, but with dedication from my wife and other staff we are able to assist them with exercise and feeding until they get back into good shape,” says Korir.
It is also unfortunate that the majority of parents in Uasin Gishu with children suffering from cerebral palsy and other disabilities hide the children for fear of stigmatization, we only come to know of such children when neighbors give us a tip-off, said Korir.
“What is more painful is that some of the parents bring the children to the rehabilitation centre and abandon them for good. They don’t even make an effort to come and visit them. The children are left at our mercy,” said Korir.
Korir, however, said not all is gloom at the home, we have success stories like the case of 19-year-old Mercy Chemtai who was brought into the home when one of her legs was full of wounds and she could not walk.
Today Chemtai is in her teens and in fourth form at Joyland secondary school, full of smiles and heaps praise to the home saying it assisted her a lot in terms of growth and development and now dreams to pursue a career in nursing after her secondary school education.
“I assist the young children with conditions similar to mine, I wash their clothes, cook for them and also assist in their physical activity like massaging them and sun bathing them now that we no longer go to school because of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Chemutai.
Lauren Koskei who faced similar challenges like Chemutai because of her condition is full of smiles and says no one should lose hope because of the condition they are born with, “before God we are all equal despite our conditions.”
A parent, Lydia Bosing, from Langas estate whose child has benefited from Korir’s family, thanked the family for lending a hand to her child living with celebral palsy who is currently in form two in one of the local secondary schools.
Because of the challenges the rehabilitation centre is facing because of the Covid-19, Korir is now appealing to well-wishers to donate anything they have to assist the needy children so that they can enjoy a decent living.
By Kiptanui Cherono