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OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT GOODLUCK EBELE AZIKIWE JONATHAN ON THE AWFUL NEGLECT OF POLIO SURVIVORS IN NIGERIA! Part 1 of 5


Sir,

As a President known for fresh ideas, a man who inspired great hope, passion, and action with a shared vision and common dream for economic growth, social cohesion and harmony, I know you have a lot on your plate, between fixing the economy and working tirelessly to shame all internal and external enemies of our great country that wish to see you fail in your relentless efforts to overhaul The Nigeria dwindling economy. I salute your spirit of "YES WE CAN".

Sir, with your demonstrated big brain and a never-ceasing listening ears to our dear nation multifaceted and multilayer problems, so let me introduce you to another mounting crisis that will require your leadership to solve: I am drawing your attention to a matter of great significance, to which attention has never been paid since independence. Now that we are celebrating Nigeria at 50, the interest of this group of forgotten people with special needs has neither been served nor protected. Their lives have become a jigsaw puzzle with many missing pieces. Today, they are grief-stricken, weathered by years of outdoor living, deeply frightened by endless agony, subsequently, they are overwhelmed, mystified, unfulfilled; and worst of all, marinating in their isolation and pain yet their mouths remain shut and they do not ask questions, they do not challenge their wanton disregard and monumental abandonment because even when they protest, their voice may not be heard as no one is earnestly willing to listen to what they have to say. Sir, there are no words to make sense of the life of uncertainty and threatening future that they faced. But I do know that children can be traumatized by events that might not be overwhelming to most adults because children's minds, especially in the very young, lack the capability to process the experiences. But sometimes the heart sees what is invisible to the eye.

For too long, the discussion on the welfare of polio survivors in Nigeria has been completely ignored and cut out of the polio eradication initiative. This trend is as dangerous as a doctor making a diagnosis on a patient's condition without looking at any and all environmental factors that affect the patient. We sincerely believe in your astuteness, we believe in your government’s policy of inclusiveness and we believe that with your leadership resolve, the agony and dehumanizing state of POLIO SURVIVORS in Nigeria must stop henceforth because they are VICTIMS of Nigeria's crumbling health care system, crippled by polio and abandoned by the past government and with no hope of basic education, job placement, housing, transportation and access to health care. Today, thousands of polio survivors are a familiar sight in the streets of Nigeria, wandering along on tiny skateboards, cheap plastic flip-flops on their hands begging for alms in the midst of great affluence.

We urge you Sir to seize this opportunity to reaffirm that human rights and the rule of law and democratic values are essential pillars of your government of today and in 2011 which must include: commitment to secure equal opportunity, freedom, and dignity for all, right to life, free medical care, transportation, food, housing, basic education, training and employment opportunities for all polio survivors in Nigeria.

Before I precede Sir, I should probably explain a bit about myself. I know what it is like to grow up as a child with a significant disability as a result of poliomyelitis. And I have certainly known how hard it can be as an adult. I had polio as a little boy of (18 months old) and struggled for years with oppressive bureaucracies and unfair public policies such as the unfavorable general public perception on polio survivors and employment disenfranchisement. It is a lonely existence to be a child with disability as a result of poliomyelitis which no-one can see or understand, you exasperate your teachers, you disappoint your parents, and worst of all you know that you are not just stupid. The horrible experience is an inspirational story of unimaginable perseverance. Many of us, if forced to experience these terrible traumas at such a young age, might find escape as an adult in alcohol or drugs or give up entirely. I recounted those battles in My Memoir currently in progress.

Though, so much has happened to me in the past couple of years. I can't really say that I have achieved all of my dreams yet, but I have made enormous leaps of growth in healing my mental and emotional attitudes, placing one foot in front of the other, I have climbed to higher lengths. Reaching beyond my own limitations, to show my inner strength. No obstacle too hard, for this warrior to overcome. I am just a man on a mission, to prove my disability CANNOT win. I choose not to place "DIS", in my ability and that is the reason why I am where I am today but still with lingering memories of the past.

Following my disability rights activism and disability scholastic studies, I have recently been given the responsibility of Presiding over the affairs of The Welfare Center for Survivors of Poliomyelitis, (WELCENSUP), which is championing the cause of rehabilitating polio survivors in Nigeria.

Be that as it may, on behalf of Welfare Center for Survivors of Poliomyelitis, (WELCENSUP), let me quickly applaud your efforts since the inception of your administration. In our opinion, you have done so well with the electoral reform, the road map to stable electricity, and the far reaching reform in the oil and gas sector of our economy. Meanwhile, Welfare Centre for Survivors of Poliomyelitis (WELCENSUP), is an independent, Nigerian-based, non-profit, non-governmental organisation (NGO) made up of both survivors of poliomyelitis, as well as non-disabled individuals who are equally passionate and committed to using education, advocacy, research and networking, with a view to enhancing the lives, dignity and ultimate independence of polio survivors.

We are in the vanguard of those championing the campaign for the eradication of polio from the shores of this country. And we are resolutely committed to providing the requisite strategic support and information that will enhance the welfare of polio survivors, as well as their social movements and integration.

Our overriding objective is to provide total rehabilitation, which will make available opportunities for education, friendship, assistive equipments and exchange of information on life-style adaptation. Additionally, we believe it would be worthwhile to provide a welcoming place to bond with fellow polio survivors, as such bonds will form the catalyst that will aid their rehabilitation process.

As you may know, polio survivors are surrounded by immeasurable mysteries and majority of us have no independent knowledge of their existence anymore. Recent research findings paint a distressing picture of the Physical and Mental Health conditions of polio survivors in Nigeria. We have equally discovered that it is not the polio disease per se that horrifies people; but what the disease leaves behind for its survivors to cope with in their lives—very horrifying, I might add. Our findings further reveal that the number of polio survivors in Nigeria is estimated conservatively at two million, seven hundred and fifty thousand (2.7) of which many of these survivors are at risk of contracting Post-polio syndrome (PPS). This is a stealthy disease that affects as many as several hundred thousand survivors in our country. Many eventually cannot manage their lives without the help of machines and devices. Late diagnosis of Post-polio syndrome and delayed treatment could degenerate to a more agonizing state whereby the victims suffer both physically and mentally bringing untold misery and of course the attendant economic hardship to their family. Sir, I respectfully crave your indulgence with a sense of urgency to address this creeping social malady.

We appreciate the opportunity to bring these issues to your attention and we implore you to come to our aid as a matter of urgency and turn our TRAGEDY into TRIUMPH and replace our FEAR with HOPE and lift us from ORDINARY to an EXTRAORDINARY LIFE — one in which we may live with spiritual abundance, balance, joy, success, significance, contribution to the economic wellbeing of our great country and fulfillment. I must not fail to end the part one of this piece with a quote I cherished most: "Our problems are man-made; therefore they may be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings" - John F. Kennedy, speech at The American University, Washington, D.C., June 10, 1963.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of these requests.

Kexter E. A. Donald Jnr., President, Welfare Center for Survivors of Poliomyelitis (WELCENSUP).

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