A Nigerian advocacy group, Ferdinand Effah Music Heritage Foundation, has called for the inclusion of regenerative stem cell medicine for children living with autism in the NHIA social health insurance coverage and benefits package.
The group, in a statement released to journalists at the weekend in Abuja and signed by its president, Mr. Stanley Effah appealed to the government and Nigerians to remember children living with autism who, according to him, have to push through many barriers to actualise their dreams.
Effah, who lamented that there were about 145 million autistic children in the world today, added that Nigeria alone is home to over two million children living with the condition.
He stressed the need for Nigeria to commence dialogue with the management of NHIA on the chances and prospects of inclusion of regenerative stem cell medicine for autism children under the NHIA social health insurance coverage and benefits package.
“Sidewise, there are about 145 million autistic children in the world today. Nigeria alone is home to over 2 million children living with the condition.
“These children and their families suffer tremendous stigmatisation and discrimination from society which further compound the challenges they go through, especially with the high cost of treatment of autism which remains [a source of] trauma to families affected by the condition.
“To date, autism has no cure, despite successes recorded around some of the very expensive treatment approaches (including, but not limited to, music therapy).
“However, with a ground-breaking development under stem cell clinical therapy, it is appearing more promising. Children of families affected by the condition are beginning to see the much-awaited light at the end of the tunnel.
“Hence, this clinical alternative standard introduced under regenerative stem cell (by specialist healthcare providers) is the area almost 90 per cent of families would so desire to explore, predominantly where there is room for affordability and financial access through social health insurance coverage, especially to the benefit of mostly the underprivileged.
“Hence, one of such specialised healthcare providers readily available in Nigeria for regenerative stem cell treatment of children with autism, is already in the process of completing a partnership agreement with our foundation’s charity project scheme on a 30-40 per cent discount rate (it was slashed from the 50 per cent, which is the international cost prize as obtained overseas).
“We hope we can wholly exploit this valued opportunity as a non-profit charity organisation in helping as many of the affected children with the condition by leveraging the prospects and values within the mandatory policy of the NHIA 2022 ACT.
“Nevertheless, in line with the theme of this year’s United Nations World Autism awareness and acceptance day which borders on inclusiveness, we (as a pro-autism group) strongly voice for, by holding onto the belief that a co-insurance payment method would thrive where autism regenerative stem cell therapy is included in the NHIA social health insurance coverage and benefits package; especially with the coming aboard of such alternative medicine now in the shores of Nigeria, readily accessible in delivering world acclaimed options not readily available, although with better results, cost advantage and access to the same standard as obtained overseas.
“Given this scenario, coupled with being a fervent autism support group obliged to redress the challenging needs of children and families affected by the condition, we call for the inclusion of regenerative stem cell clinical therapy as part of the benefits’ package for families with autistic children, under the six-co-insurance social health payment type system of the NHIA programme where early diagnosis and intervention can adequately be incorporated.
“This would be noteworthy to our vision, as a pro-autism redressing foundation, to see as many of our autistic children who have been schemed out of society, due to stigmatisation and non-inclusiveness, to revive the hope of becoming part of success stories of the larger Nigerian society, especially in the context of having sound minds with healthy body system.
“It is, therefore, our solemn endorsement that the management of NHIA may consider giving room to our call for inclusion, creating a forum where representatives of regenerative stem cell specialized healthcare providers with people and families affected by the condition of autism in Nigeria can begin to dialogue with the management of NHIA on the chances and prospect for inclusion of regenerative stem cell medicine for autism children under the NHIA social health insurance coverage and benefits’ package.
“Finally, we are also using this medium as an opportunity (through this call) to extend our hands of fellowship to several more concerned individuals, families, groups and affiliate institutions; while hoping [that] we can all stay focused, committed and readily available as part of a continues process at ensuring the actualisation of this all-important call,” the statement said.