“It is not witchcraft” – Health Minister speaks on autism
by Lekan Olanrewaju
The Nigerian government has spoken out on discrimination against people with autism. Last Thursday, the Health Minister, Onyebuchi Chukwu, addressed the press in Abuja, saying that the government was concerned about discriminatory practices against individuals with autism, lamenting that some individuals end up being “locked in cages and fed like animals It is not witchcraft.”
“Affected individuals are discriminated against even by their own families,” he said. “Some of them with the severe forms of ASD are sometimes locked up in cages behind the house and fed like animals. This practice is fuelled by the stigmatisation the families face in the communities.”
He blamed lack of awareness for the treatment of autistic people, and declared that the theme for this year’s world autism awareness day in Nigeria is: Autism early intervention is key.
“This theme reflects the commitment of the government to the provision of quality health care to all Nigerians as necessitated in-goal number two of that National strategic health development plan,” he said.
The Minister of Education, Professor Rukayyat Rufai, also spoke at the event, saying that government had approved the establishment of a National Diagnosis Centre for autism in each of the geo-political zones in the country.