Freetown, SIERRA LEONE – Isha Sesay, a Sierra Leonean based in the United States of America, is bringing a ray of hope to children with autism in Sierra Leone. After giving birth to a child with autism, Sesay, also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Sahid Autism Foundation, has pledged unwavering support to enhance the lives of children facing this challenge.
The annual marathon event organized by the Sahid Autism Foundation was officially launched at “DE Beach Café, Lumley, in Freetown, on Monday, January 8th, 2024.
Autism, characterized by abnormal social interaction and communication, restricted interests, repetitive behaviour, and eccentricity, affects a significant number of individuals in Sierra Leone. Recent statistics indicate that approximately 32,663 persons in the country are living with autism, with children accounting for 12,933. Stigmatization remains a challenge in Sierra Leone due to a lack of education and awareness about the condition.
Dr. Elizabeth Alieu, a Sierra Leonean medic, emphasized that autism is a medical condition, not the fault of anybody. She encouraged parents with autistic children to seek assistance at the Child Adolescent Mental Hospital in Freetown. Despite the initial loss of hope by some parents, Dr. Alieu believes that the condition can be managed.
Sahid Autism Foundation, in existence for several years, has been actively involved in supporting Sierra Leonean children with autism. The foundation has established a special school, provided medical care, and ensured three square meals for these children.
Alieu Sesay, providing insight into the foundation’s background, revealed that the Calaba Town school caters to the needs of 46 children with autism and employs 7 teachers. However, challenges such as financial constraints for daily meals, insufficient transport, limited space, and a lack of capacity building for tutors persist.
CEO Isha Sesay stressed the importance of raising awareness for the welfare of special needs kids. She highlighted her commitment to the cause, mentioning that she has dedicated a building for children with autism.
While acknowledging the gains made over the years, Sesay called for more support, urging that children with autism should be treated with equality and not face discrimination. Despite not being wealthy, Sesay emphasized her humanitarian commitment to supporting Sierra Leonean kids living with autism.
Margaret Dumbuya, a mother whose child attends the autism school in Calaba Town, shared the challenges her son faced, including stigmatization and mistreatment in a previous school. Since transferring her son to the autism school, Dumbuya noticed a positive change in his behaviour, highlighting the importance of specialized education for children with autism. SKS/9/1/2024