Autism awareness takes center stage during Mental Health Awareness Day in Tanzania

The Founder and Executive Director of the non-government organization Lukiza Autism Foundation who is also the organizer of Run 4 Autism Tanzania Ms. Hilda Nkabe, has urged parents of children with autism to not despair and instead raise their children with love, in spite of the challenges that they are facing.

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Speaking at the first National Conference on mental health in the country held at Julius Nyerere International Conference Centre (JNICC), the director has asked the Ministry of Health to look at challenges faced by parents of children with Autism and other disabilities. These include high cost of therapies, shortage of specialized medical professions in the field, shortage of therapists and inadequate health centers that provide the therapies. The ambassador of individuals with Autism has also noted that there is also a shortage of special needs/inclusive schools with trained special needs teachers in Tanzania.

“Autism is a big challenge in our society especially when it goes unaddressed because we have many families suffering with autistic children at their homes but they are afraid of going all out ostensibly because they do not know how to handle it,” Hilda explained. “We are creating a platform where these cases can be appreciated and addressed.”

She said this while receiving an award as a Mental Health Ambassador from the Minister of Health, Hon. Ummy Mwalimu, following her contribution in educating the community on mental health, especially Autism. Ms. Hilda Nkabe thanked Hon. Ummy Mwalimu and the Ministry of Health in general for recognizing her efforts in mental health and facilitating the first national conference on mental health which will open the much needed dialogue about mental health in Tanzania.

“This is a special day for all of us because we get to be cognizant of the different challenges our people are going through owing to mental health, and it is from this awareness that we will find solutions that not only promote the well being of people but also promote human dignity,” she said. “I am therefore thankful to everyone who is joining this cause.”

Autism affects young children, whereby symptoms start showing at the age of below 5. These symptoms are such as communication challenges, challenges in social interactions, behavioral challenges as well as sensory integration issues.

Source: Dan Burton, Tanzania