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Opinion | Aug 20, 2018

Breaking the silence on CP in Ghana - Raymond Badu Writes

By Stephen Nana Adjei Sikapa
A world of difference for children with CP and their families with CP in Eastern Ghana.
A world of difference for children with CP and their families with CP in Eastern Ghana.

With the support of the Salvation Army and the Vodaphone Ghana Foundation, Raymond Badu is making the world of difference for children with cerebral palsy and their families in Eastern Ghana through education and access to services.

Man on a mission
Raymond Badu’s passion for helping children with cerebral palsy (CP) and their families were born from his university days where he studied education. His final year leads him to research disorders hidden in his community, culminating in his thesis: ‘Societal Beliefs and Perceptions on Persons Living with Cerebral Palsy’.

Many years later in 2011, when the Vodaphone Ghana Foundation was taking submissions for the World of Difference Program, Raymond knew this was his opportunity to take action and break the silence on CP in Ghana.

Out of 500 applicants, Raymond was successful and he decided to start in his hometown of Agona Duakwa, a farming community in the Central Region of Ghana.

“The Agona Swedru-Agona Duakwa area alone had almost 3000 cases of cerebral palsy with 90 per cent of the mothers neglected,” explains Raymond.

“In most rural settings like Agona Duakwa, where superstitions are rife, CP is considered to be a punishment from the gods for the mothers’ bad deeds. The agonies the women go through cause them to sometimes poison or kill their children.”

Through the Vodafone Ghana Foundation’s Community Based Rehabilitation Centre – which acted as a charity partner – Raymond was able to connect and interact with the parents of children with CP.

“The two-month community awareness project funded by Vodafone Ghana, brought knowledge, much-needed education and, most importantly, comfort to these mothers and children who had been in the dark for so long. I was able to teach them about the disorder and how to manage it.”

Educating the community
However, as Raymond’s mission was to dispel the misconceptions and superstitious beliefs surrounding CP, it was not just the families of children with CP who needed education.

“I wanted to educate the community and Ghanaians at large that the condition is no fault of the child or mother.”

Community awareness was raised through local radio, television and public information sessions.

Meetings with key stakeholders such as mayors and policymakers in local government were held to make them understand the needs of children with CP and their families in regard to health, social and financial support.

Through his research, Raymond discovered approximately 60 per cent of CP cases could be attributed to bad delivery practices.

Consequently, traditional birth attendants were engaged, educating them on the risks resulting from birth complications and the need to refer to qualified doctors or midwives.

“I also paid much attention to educating expectant mothers on regular visits to antenatal and postnatal clinics to reduce any risk factors,” explains Raymond.

Fostering love and support
Religious leaders were also educated and encouraged to promote love, support and respect for people with CP.

“Some women are made to believe it’s a spiritual condition and is subsequently exploited by traditional priests who collect huge amounts and demand other things from them under the pretext of possessing cures for these afflicted children.”

One significant challenge facing families with children with CP is the psychological and emotional toll it can have on the marital relationship. Many men leave their wives due to superstitious beliefs around bearing a child with CP.

Mothers have contacted Raymond to thank him for promoting understanding of CP. For example, this woman’s husband returned after viewing one of the awareness segments on television:

“My husband who ran away from home and abandoned us because of my baby’s condition is now back upon knowing from the Vodafone Project on TV3 Morning Show – Sun Rise – that the CP condition is manageable.”

Awareness just the beginning
Dedicated to creating a better life for children with CP and their families, Raymond has gone on to raise money in conjunction with the Vodafone Ghana Foundation, the Salvation Army, and the Australian High Commission in Ghana to build two rehabilitation centres.

These CP Centres of Excellence are located in Agona Duakwa and in Begoro, a rural community within the Eastern Region of Ghana.

Centre staff compromise of physiotherapists, occupational therapists, orthotists, rehabilitation officers, special education teachers and nursing staff, including mental health nurses.

Offering much-needed support and rehabilitation services to people with CP in rural Ghana, these facilities are some of the best in the sub-Saharan Africa region.

When asked about how he feels about his achievements and the difference he has made for thousands of families affected by CP in Ghana, Raymond is humble.

“I feel fulfilled that I am able to offer something meaningful to my community.”

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