BY Kunle Aderinokun
Having a body part missing could be traumatic for those involved: the victim and the care givers. For instance, losing an arm, a leg, fingers or any other body parts presents the individual with a challenging prospect. This is worsened by the society’s predilection for stigmatisation of physically challenged persons, which sometimes leaves such individuals and their loved ones psychologically and mentally distressed. The situation is made worse when such individuals or their families are financially handicapped to seek corrective measures.
That was the plight of five young children who each had lost a limb either through circumstances of birth or unfortunate accidents. Two of them suffered traumatic damages to their legs from accidents, which resulted in amputation; two were born with defects that necessitated amputation and the last suffered multiple congenital amputations of the leg and fingers from birth. “The first time I held my boy after delivery, it was really devastating. I wept for days,” says Mrs. Elfrida Joseph Osuma, mother to one of the children, who were born without limbs.
These children and many like them have dreams and aspirations like the rest of us but the physical handicap, coupled with the stigmatisation that comes with it, is often a huge burden that holds them back, leaving many at the mercy of others and many more resorting to begging. And the much-needed break in life mostly never comes.
Everybody needs a shoulder to lean on in such situations. Fortunately for the five children mentioned above, Stanbic IBTC provided its very broad shoulders for them to lean on. They were given the break they needed when last year, Stanbic IBTC undertook to provide them with prostheses or artificial limbs as well as provide each of them with N1.5 million educational trust funds to ensure they get quality education.
This heartwarming role by Stanbic IBTC is nothing new. In fact, it is in line with the brand’s corporate social investment (CSI) thrust, which rests on a tripod of health, education and economic empowerment. The financial institution had last year adopted the provision of prostheses and scholarships to indigent children with missing limbs as its signature CSI initiative.
Explaining the rationale behind the adoption of the initiative, Chief Executive of Stanbic IBTC Holdings, Sola David-Borha, said: “Stanbic IBTC’s corporate social responsibility has three areas of focus: health, education and economic empowerment. We wanted to have a flagship cause that people will identify us with and we did a survey among the staff and arrived at health for children, which was then narrowed down to prosthetic limbs. We are focused on children who are not well supported so that we can make a real difference in their lives.”
Indeed, there is no doubt that the five beneficiaries will experience a difference. With the prostheses, social integration becomes easier and they are guaranteed equal opportunity in life with the quality education the trust is expected to equip them with. Perhaps to fully appreciate the impact and far-reaching nature of Stanbic IBTC’s gesture, it is important to note that a prosthetic limb costs an average of between N700,000 and N1 million to procure and fit; “a proper and functional prosthesis not just to walk but so that later in life the health (spinal cord) won’t be affected.” And this is not a one-time cost. “Imagine me saving N1 million yearly for prosthesis. How much is my salary?” says Mrs. Osuma while expressing gratitude to Stanbic IBTC for picking her son as a beneficiary. According to experts, the lifespan of a prosthesis is three to four years after which a new one must be fitted. Children quickly outgrow such limbs, even before the three-year expiry. This means, a child will probably need 15 to 20 refitting before he is grown up and start to earn income to handle his/her own affairs.
It is this cost that often act as a barrier to many getting the limb and living a fulfilled life. According to the International Organisation of Scientific Research Journal of Dental and Medical Sciences, Volume 13, Issue 10, only about 9 per cent-12 per cent of Nigerians without limbs are fitted with prostheses. Thus, there is a vast majority that are most likely frustrated and go through life with very low self-esteem.
Beyond the provision of prostheses and scholarships to beneficiaries, Stanbic IBTC took an important step to raise awareness yearly and perhaps in the process encourage other well-meaning individuals and businesses to pitch in to boost access to prosthetic limbs by those who need them. Part of the awareness drive is to also enlighten Nigerians on the need to be proactive in terms of their health and those of their children. Research has shown that “36 per cent of amputees in Nigeria are as a result of diabetic cases.”
Last year, the financial institution organised a charity walk in Lagos to draw attention to children who need limbs. “The event (the charity walk) will go down in history as one of those with the most profound impact on the children of this country,” said wife of the Lagos State governor, Mrs. Bolanle Ambode, who flagged of the 5-kilometre walk.
Hundreds of people, including David-Borha, Yinka Sanni, the chief executive of Stanbic IBTC Bank, other top executives of the financial institution and guests took part in the charity walk, which started from the corporate offices of Stanbic IBTC on Walter Carrington Crescent, Victoria Island, through Ozumba Mbadiwe to the Lagos Law School and back to Walter Carrington.
Having adopted the event as its signature CSI initiative, Stanbic IBTC has committed to yearly focus attention on it. According to the institution, it is an ongoing project and it plans to take on an additional eight beneficiaries this year, drawn from across the country, bringing to 13 the number of beneficiaries. A strict governance structure is adopted to ensure the selection process is transparent and inclusive enough across the target group, it assured.
The missing limbs initiative provides a broad platform for Stanbic IBTC to tackle the three focal areas of its CSI initiatives. By addressing the health and educational needs of the children, the institution has with the same stroke helped in empowering their parents. Their financial burdens have not only been reduced, the little family income could then be channeled into other productive uses.
The determination of Stanbic IBTC to alleviate the plight of children with missing limbs was further underlined when it formally launched the signature initiative last December to public aplomb. Bolanle Austen-Peters of Terra Kulture produced a breathtaking dance drama performance that kept guests speechless at the event in Lagos.
Such dramas usually address societal issues; they give life to issues in a way that elicits deeper understanding and the need to do something. It challenges deep-rooted practices, beliefs and culture while subtly calling for action.
The beneficiaries are five now, soon to become 13. With an unwavering commitment and consistent awareness drive, a few years down the line, the 9 per cent-12 per cent prostheses coverage will no doubt be nearer full coverage. This needs to be encouraged by all.