Supporting amputees and fighting disability stigma and misinformation in Nigeria
In October 2019, Ruth Larbey, a science communications editor at UWE, set off to Abuja, Nigeria to attend a workshop aimed at improving science and health communication through the media. We were able to connect her with our friends at the Aderonke Rehabilitation Network, so as well as delivering a suitcase of prosthetic components, Ruth was able to learn first-hand what they are doing to improve support and challenge stigma for amputees in Nigeria.
I was heading out to Abuja, Nigeria to help to launch the African Science Literacy Network – which has a mission to improve science communication in Africa. A couple of days before leaving, Legs4Africa delivered a large suitcase of prosthetics to my doorstep. On the way through the security at Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport, Abuja’s shiny new international airport, no one batted an eyelid at the large suitcase, and I went on my way to deliver the contents.
I was acting as one of Legs4Africa’s couriers – delivering prosthetics on a journey I would have taken anyway – in order to make the redistribution of prosthetic legs as carbon-efficient as possible. In this case, I was delivering to the Aderonke Rehabilitation Network, Abuja – a non-profit set up to provide free functional limbs to people across Nigeria. Their three-pronged strategy involves, firstly, linking up prosthetics from Legs4Africa with those who need them – working with patients and hospitals to find prosthetic solutions that will suit the patient.
Secondly, they concentrate on broader education and counselling about how to live well and stay healthy with limb loss, and thirdly, they focus on advocacy to improve government recognition and support for people with limb loss.
“empowering amputees to realise a life without limits“
The Executive Director, Ms Aderonke Oguntuase, was an impressive advocate for the power of hope in an environment that is very challenging at best. Wielding a keen understanding of the benefits of good mental health for amputees, she told me about some of the mental health challenges and social stigma that some amputees in Nigeria can face – this can be so extreme that people may avoid essential treatment, leading to further health complications or more severe amputations than originally necessary.
Ms Aderonke and Barrister Florence Marcus (President of the Amputee Coalition of Nigeria) both attended the launch of the African Science Literacy Network, and I was inspired to hear their thoughts about how evidence-based disability (and public health) support in Nigeria could be much better stimulated and improved. Their commitment to sharing and promoting – and being themselves – great examples of how amputees can live healthy, purposeful and highly ambitious lives in Africa was refreshing.
“ Ms Aderonke Oguntuase was an impressive advocate for the power of hope “
Indeed, the Aderonke Rehabilitation Network are doing such great work to educate and spread an evidence-based understanding of amputee physical and mental health, they were gifted an honorary African Science Literacy Network award to thank them for their contribution to the work of science literacy in Africa. And Legs4Africa are doing crucial work in providing components that are empowering amputees to realise a life without limits.
If you’d like to learn more about the Aderonke Rehabilitation Network, then see their website:
If you’d be interested in delivering prosthetics to a country you are travelling to in Africa, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you Ruth for your help and generosity, and thank you to all those at the African Science Literacy Network for working to improve the communication of health science in a time where transparent reporting on scientific findings and journalistic integrity are more important than ever.
Finally, a huge congratulations to the Aderonke Rehabilitation Network on their award, with a massive thank you to Ms. Aderonke and Barrister Florence on their inspiring work supporting the disabled community of Nigeria.