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Ministry unveils roadmap on local production of assistive technologies for PWDs

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By Chimezie Godfrey

The Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development with support from the Leprosy Mission – Nigeria, has unveiled the developed national road map on local production of standardized assistive technologies for Persons With Disabilities (PWDs) in Nigeria.

At the public presentation of this milestone achievement on Tuesday in Abuja, the Director, Special Needs Department of the Ministry, Mrs Nkechi Onwukwe revealed that the roadmap being presented is a demonstration of the Federal Government’s commitment to ensure that persons with disabilities are empowered.

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Mrs Onwukwe stressed that the Assistive Technologies (ATs) will empower PWDs for independent living, as well as ensure that their welfare is well protected, among other benefits.

She noted that over the years the cost of importing the ATs has become high on Federal Government hence the need to look inwards.

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She said,”It is indeed my pleasure to welcome you all to this very important occasion of the public presentation of the National Roadmap on Local Production of Standard Assistive Technologies for Persons With Technologies (PWDs), in Nigeria 2021- 25. It is worthy of note that this public presentation being witnessed today is a clear demonstration of the Federal Government ‘s commitment to seeing that persons with disabilities are empowered for independent living while ensuring that their welfare is well protected.

“The Ministry through the Department of Special Needs is working with partners to nurture and harness the potentials of persons with disabilities as well as promoting activities that enhances their interaction, mainstreaming and empowerment for a more sustainable economic , social and political growth of the nation.

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“Over the years , it was discovered that the cost of importing the Assistive Devices is becoming high on the Federal Government and t.fore the need to look inward. Thus the realization that the only way we can achieve self-sufficiency is by encouraging our local producers to deliver quality products that can match-up with foreign ones Having recognized this need, Government is ready and will continue to provide an enabling environment for the sustainability of our local procedures to thrive.

“Permit me to state that is as a strategy for improving AT lroduction, production , procurement and provision in Nigeria, that the Ministry in collaboration with partners developed and finalized the National Roadmap on local production of Assistive Technologies and which is being presented today. I t.fore want to thank out partners who stood by us n ensuring that the final document is produced and also task you to continue support the implemention of its provisions for improved access to assistive devices.”

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Mrs Onwukwe stressed that assistive t technologies . important role in maintaining and improving disability functioning areas of vision, hearing, cognitive, mobility and communication, t.by promoting their well being and livelihood

She further stated that the roadmap is designed to guide various components involved in the production process in providing standard assistive technologies locally.

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In a Keynote address, the Permanent Secretary, FMHADSD, Dr. Nasir Gwarzo represented by the Director, Humanitarian Affairs, Alh. Ali Grema, revealed that an estimated 1billion people are said to be living with disabilities world over, as he pointed out that 15% of close to 200 people in Nigeria are living with disabilities.

He noted that caring for and meeting the needs of those living with disabilities in terms of protection of their rights, access to healthcare facilities, educational facilities and economic activities has become a discussion of national importance, adding that Nigeria cannot afford to remain isolated among comity of nations with respect to paying special attention to her citizens who have special needs.

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“Assistive technology is an umbrella term covering the systems and services related to the delivery of assistive products and services such as wheelchairs, eyeglasses, hearing aids, prosthetics, and personal assistive devices.

“Assistive devices .s an important role in maintaining and improving people’s functioning and t.by promoting their wellbeing. It enables persons with difficulties in functioning to lead healthy, productive, independent, and dignifies lives, participating in education, the labour market and social life.

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“Access to assistive technology is thus an essential component in the continuum of health care and universal health coverage. It needs to be integrate into efforts to attain target 3.8 of the sustainable development goals on universal health coverage,” he said.

Gwarzo revealed that the ministry through her special needs department has continuously made concerted efforts towards improving the lives of persons with disabilities in Nigeria , adding that these efforts have at different times been aimed at specific objectives to generally fetch better living outcomes for PWDs in the country.

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He further disclosed that the ministry has been procuring AT for identified PWDs and other PWDs focused NGOs in Nigeria, most of them being foreign AT, either procured directly by the ministry or donated.

“Conversely, t. were a number of setbacks with most of the imported ATs ranging from poor fitting for end users, lack of comfort to users, high cost and in some extreme cases causes further injury to users.

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“The above aforementioned inadequacies propelled the ministry to start thinking inwards towards supporting local production of these ATs. Thus this led to the constitution and inauguration of a national technical working committee on local production of assistive technologies for PWDs in Nigeria, convening of a stakeholders consultative forum, identification of local producers of assistive technologies in the 36 states of the federation and FCT, as well as the development of a national roadmap local production of standardized assistive technologies or persons with disabilities in Nigeria 2021-25.

“The objectives of the roadmap are as follows to provide guidance for production , procurement and distribution of assistive Technologies for PWDs in Nigeria.

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“To ensure quality control in local production of assistive technologies for PWDs in Nigeria.

“To help in providing enabling environment for employment creation through local production of assistive technologies for PWDs in Nigeria, and ensure availability and affordability of assistive technologies for PWDs in Nigeria.

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The Perm Sec. also stressed that the roadmap has t.fore been developed to pilot the implementation of the key enabling actions, activities and programmes that will be instrumental to an organized production , procurement and distribution of assistive s technologies for PWDs in Nigeria.

According to him, it passed through series of processes and reviews under the guidance and the NTWG, a consultant who facilitated its development as well as its stakeholders validation.

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He said to ensure that the goal of the document is achieved among other things, the ministry had conducted a nationwide assessment visit to major local producers ATs in the 36 states and FCT, w. substantial number of local producers of AT were identified.

Gwarzo also noted that the roadmap captures both the global and Nigeria context of assistive technologies, adding that it X-rayed the current situation of persons with disabilities in Nigeria, their requirements and the local producers of the AT from the perspective of demography m, human rights, disability situation , health situation, stigma , disaster risk management , and monitoring and evaluation of the change.

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The Perm. Sec. who expressed confidence that if the recommendations and key programmes and specific activities contained in this roadmap are implemented meticulously, it will promote an egalitarian society and stimulate humanitarian services across the country.

He also assured that the federal government will continue to do her best in providing exemplary leadership and conducive environment for the development of persons with disabilities.

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He further called on all and sundry to continue to support government effort in building a society desirous of all.

The unveiling of the book tittled,”Local Production of Standardized Assistive Technologies for Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) in Nigeria: A National Roadmap 2021 – 2025.” was the highpoint of the event.

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Represented at the auspicious event were the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Technology, National Commission for Persons With Disability, Liprosu Mission -Nigeria, and Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent Paul, among other critical stakeholders.

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