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Sierra Leone News: Stop it – Autism

There are no statistics to indicate the number of autistic people in Sierra Leone, however, there is no doubt that the disorder is prevalent. It is not uncommon to see autistic people in Sierra Leone; they are often referred to as ‘ehfulehfu’ or ‘Alflahun’.
Autism is a “neurological-disorder” – a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by great difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts, explained the Director of Non-Communicable diseases, Ministry of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Alie Wurie.
Speaking at the first anniversary of ‘Stop It’ Sierra Leone and the launch of World Autism Awareness Day, Dr. Wurie explained, “On 18th December 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 62/139… which declares April 2rd as World Autism Awareness Day.” He said the day is to bring the world’s attention to autism, a pervasive disorder that affects tens of millions.
The UN World Autism Day resolution encourages all member states to take measures to raise awareness about autism throughout society and to encourage early diagnosis and intervention.
He explained autistic patients are suffering silently because of the misconception about the disorder. People often use traditional approaches in addressing the disorder or hide relatives with the disorder. Also noting, care for these special needs people is absent because there is a lack of expertise.
He said, “ Autism is real. It is not bewitching. It is a medical condition… Autistic people are humans and not devils.”
The Executive Director of “Stop It” Sierra Leone, John Koroma said, “To mark the organization’s first anniversary we’ve decided to come up with an awareness campaign about the disorder. He explained that they are not medical practitioners, however, they are passionate about seeking ways to address the disorder.
The Executive Director said, “This is the first step of a million mile journey…” He called on local and international organizations for support.
Stop It Sierra Leone is a gender-rights based organization operating on education and advocacy for rights awareness and prevention of abuse for women and children, reproductive health, human development and humanitarian affairs.
By Ophaniel Gooding
Monday April 03, 2017

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