AN APPRAISAL ON THE SOCIAL WELFARE PROGRAMMES ON HANDICAPPED PERSONS
The issue of welfare services in Nigeria exist with the motive of assisting the handicapped persons to help themselves. Government has the right to protect and foster the interest of the citizens by finding solutions to the social problems of the handicapped persons in the society. Handicap refers to problems a person with disability or impairment encounters in interacting with the environment; it may be caused by physical, mental or sensory factors and render a person abnormal in society. However, the World Health Organisation defines the term “handicap” as any restriction or lack of ability to perform an activity in a manner or within a range considered normal for a human being (World Health Organisation, 1996).
Cultures around the world have nearly similar perceptions or ideas of what a ‘normal’ human body is, when there is deviation from that ‘normal’ the society can react in any of the following manner; shock, embarrassment, pity and denial. Being handicapped may range from a person’s inability to walk on both feet unaided, talk, hear, to seeing without glasses which makes the impaired persons to suffer an inferiority complex as well as limitations in the degree of participation in the normal life of the community either by being partially or totally excluded (Momoh, 1997). Apparently, there is no society that exists without the handicapped or disabled persons. Their powerlessness or vulnerability stems from inability to compete or equate with other members of the society as a result of some physical impairment. However, the government and even the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have put in place some welfare services and packages in order to bridge the gap between the handicapped and non-handicapped persons in the society.
Welfare on the other hand includes all such activities as its objective and embraces not merely a section but the whole society as its field of operation. The welfare services by the government include areas like health, education, housing, transportation and social security. To fulfil these responsibilities, the government has to develop vision, mission, ethic statements and guidelines to serve as a yardstick to measure its success (Ekpe and Mamah, 1997). Thus the government has a vital role as the handicapped individuals and groups are dependent on the government for protection, care and survival. Welfare services whether in Nigeria or elsewhere is an essentiality in the society. Welfare is the general good of the whole society without any reference to a particular evil or evils, and without any distinction between high and low, and rich and poor. It is the poor and the needy, the helpless and the under-privileged, the underdeveloped and the unfortunate who require to be attended to and all welfare activities are meant to supply this attention and care so that they may attain normal average standard of life activity. Any state or government worth the name has to look to the welfare of the people, including of course the poorest and the helpless (Ade, 1986)
However, various efforts have been made to improve the life of the handicapped persons in the society. For instance in Akwa Ibom state special schools are established where they can receive both educational and vocational training. This can make the handicap persons capable of fending for themselves and contributing positively towards the growth of the society. Also, the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Welfare (MWASW) in Akwa Ibom state provides rehabilitation centres such as co-operative industries of Nigeria, shoemaking workshop for the handicapped, Itu leprosy clinic, Arts and craft training centre, St. Joseph’s remedial training centre and St. Louis centre. All this is put in place in order to eliminate begging, starvation, delinquency, ignorance and dependency (Daily Sun Newspaper 24; 12; 2014).
According to a recent survey carried out by the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is estimated that about 10% of any given population are Persons with Disabilities (PWDs). In Nigerian terms, this translates into 14 million people out of a population of more than 140 million people (National Census figures, 2006). Thus, the WHO organise and co-ordinates programmes such as the Community-based rehabilitation (CBR) which focuses on enhancing the quality of life of handicap people and their families; meeting basic needs; and ensuring inclusion and participation. It is a multi-sectoral strategy that empowers handicap persons to access and benefit from education, employment, health and social services. CBR is implemented through the combined efforts of people who are handicapped and disabled, their families and communities, and relevant government and non-government, health, education, vocational, social and other services.
Handicap persons could be adopted by one or more groups or volunteers to their school fees, train them in any vocations, provide walking aids like boots, callipers, crutches, wheelchairs, tricycles etc. All these are practical social issues that the community members should adopt as part of community participation in CBR projects in their different communities. Nigeria as a whole being a component community is obliged to embrace meaningful programme approved by WHO committed to the benefit of the less-privileged and the handicapped members of every society. There is need for a convention that will establish or consolidate norms for the provision and protection of people who are handicapped. Such convention should highlight the important aspect at the national level of legislative, administrative, judicial and constitutional measures to ensure that people with handicap problems will fully realise and enjoy their human rights in the area of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights