Families of Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) soldiers who have children with special needs received special aid devices on Friday 12th February. The historical event, one of its kind, took place at Kahawa Garrison Barracks where over 50 families were given walking devices, standing devices and special wheelchairs.
The event was organised by the Defence Headquarters Welfare and Compensation Branch, Directorate of Medical Services and Military Wives Association of Kenya (MWAK).
The focus to help families of/ and children with special needs was championed by MWAK who identified the concerns of the families as an area in need of urgent intervention. In a meeting held in October 2020 where the Association led by its Chairperson Mrs. Tabitha Kibochi discussed ways in which the association could contribute in improving the Welfare of KDF soldiers.
The first step the association embarked on was to cater for the needs of children with special needs. This was based on a recent study conducted by the Defence Forces Memorial Hospital (DFMH) that revealed that the highest disability amongst KDF families is Cerebral Palsy.
As part of the initiatives, the ceremony to handover the special aid devices to the children was organised.
Speaking during the event, General Officer Commanding Eastern Command (GOC EastCom) Major General Ayub Matiiri noted the administration of service personnel and their families including widows, orphans and children with disabilities is a component of military welfare.
While urging the parents to avoid hiding such children, Major General Matiiri said early diagnosis helps in earlier treatment and therapy services being offered free at KDF Wellness Centre.
He noted that rise in the cases of children with disabilities among officers serving in KDF prompted the formation of a committee to establish the cause of such increase and come up with possible remedial actions.
“The committee upon completion of their study, recommended supportive measures using locally available technologies in order to alleviate challenges faced by the affected children and their parents,” said the GOC EastCom.
He added, “As we mark this ceremony, I request that you go out and educate other personnel the importance of early diagnosis of disability cases among children. It is also important that you avoid stigmatising personnel but encourage those affected to come out in numbers and report such cases since disability is not inability.
He expressed his gratitude to the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF) General Robert Kibochi for the support accorded to the welfare department to ensure welfare programs are fully implemented.
Mrs. Tabitha Kibochi, who is the Chairperson of MWAK said they were moved to act after visiting Defence Forces Memorial Hospital in 2020 where they met with children suffering cerebral palsy.
“We discovered that these children were facing various challenges including lack of basic supportive devices. The parents and caregivers were straining to supporting their children and as mothers, we were touched and felt that we needed to do something and offer psycho-social support to parents,” said Mrs Kibochi.
She said that through collaboration with the Director of Medical Services alongside the Compensation and Welfare department, a budget to procure these devices was put in place.
“It gives me immense joy to see that we have contributed as a team in alleviating some of these challenges faced by these families. We have just begun in Nairobi and we are rolling MWAK outreach to reach to the regions and issue such devices,” said Ms Kibochi.
“We thank KDF for being responsive and through these partnerships we shall celebrate more milestones. We encourage parents of differently abled children not to shy away from seeking assistance, we urge them to come forward. KDF cares for their own,” she advised.
Senior Sergeant Jackline Omollo who has a child with cerebral palsy could not hide her joy saying the walking aid she was given she could not have afforded with her payslip.
“We have been given an early valentine, this wheelchair shall go a long way helping our children. I am also delighted that therapy services are being offered at Lang’ata Barracks where our children can be attended to by experts 2-3 times in a week for free,” said Ms Omollo.
She noted that the children need special attention adding that public transport operators usually by-pass them whenever they want to take children to hospital.
“We request for transport logistics to enable us carry these children to Lang’ata since mostly we are snubbed by matatus. Some of the drugs are also expensive and unavailable and we request for adequate stock of these drugs to continue ensuring the wellbeing of the children,” she added.
Senior Private Aisha Mohammed was happy that her child who cannot sit was given a wheelchair where she can sit and even bask in the sun.
She said parents have been dealt with psychological problems and need counsellors occasionally to speak to them so they be able to accept their children in their special conditions.
The devices which are set to be distributed to parents serving other military units is aimed at easing the challenges of mobility these children have and at the same time make the parents feel their employer (KDF) has their thoughts at heart.
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