Egypt has declared 2018 as the year of persons with disabilities, in a bid by President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi to increase awareness about this segment and help their inclusion in the society.
Therefore, the International Prize Centre for the Training of People with Special Needs was established to represent the successful models of people with disabilities and the workers in this field, such as doctors and civil society associations.
The centre also launched the Arab International Festival for People with Special Needs festival in conjunction with declaring 2018 as the year of persons with disabilities. The festival is organized in September and October every year, but it provides support for people with special needs and their families the whole year.
The Prize Centre is the first hub specialized in teaching and training all human and modern sciences for people with various mental, sensory, motor, and short stature disabilities. It aims to prepare cadres and honourable models for the Arab and international community through trainers, consultants, and specialists in various fields. It offers psychological support, inclusion, empowerment, and training courses for the prevention and control of disability.
President of the Prize Centre and its festival, Mostafa Abdallah, sat down with Daily News Egypt and talked about the centre’s plan to support people with special needs as well as their families.
Abdallah said that both the festival and centre have been registered with the Ministry of Culture, and have a trademark from the Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade. It is the first festival for people with special needs.
In 2018, Egypt started a campaign to integrate people with special needs into the society, not only through the Social Solidarity Ministry, but all state institutions took part, he added.
The 2021 edition of the festival was entitled “Disability in the eyes of humanity.” The festival began to adopt a media, social, cultural, creative, sports, and educational vision.
Abdallah explained that the festival is based on “five elements”; integration, subsidy, enablement, prevention, and combat.
“We aim to integrate people with special needs in sport, social, cultural, and artistic activities,” he elaborated.
The subsidy element means providing health equipment, such as wheelchairs and walking aids; hearing and vision aids; artificial limbs; and surgical appliances.
He added that the enablement element aims to help people with special needs to take leading positions in the political or economic fields.
The prevention element splits into primary prevention which are actions taken prior to the onset of the disability, which will remove the possibility that a disability will occur, and secondary prevention which halts the progress of the disability at its incipient stage and prevents complications.
Finally, to combat disability, the centre provides pre-pregnancy checkups for women in order to discover any genetic disorder and offer early treatment.
Checkups have three stages: before marriage, during pregnancy, and after delivery. Kids should be examined starting from Day 1 to 1 year old, then from 1 to 6 years old, and from the age of 6 until 18 years old.
“We also work to support people with chronic conditions, such as heart and liver diseases, as well as people with mild disabilities, such as short stature less than 146 cm,” Abdallah said.
He explained that a disability is every genetic, hereditary, mental, or physical disorder that affects a person and leads to his disability.
“We established a number of branches for the festival in various Egyptian governorates, as well as outside Egypt, in Algeria and Jordan,” he revealed.
The Prize Centre also signed several agreements to obtain discounts for all festival members in radiology centres, hospitals, physiotherapy centres, nutrition clinics, and pharmacies.
“We have also signed cooperation protocols with the Ministries of Education, Culture, Social Solidarity, and Sports to help in supporting and integrating people with special needs,” he said.
The centre currently has partnerships with some government and private agencies to provide job opportunities for young people with special abilities.
“We are planning to build a rehabilitation, medical, and health hospital for people with special needs, and to organize exhibitions and conferences, as well as establishing a private school for pre-school age for people with special needs,” he noted.
The centre also supports civil society associations with the aim of integrating people with disabilities into society and also to support orphans, widows, the elderly people, and all those who suffer from psychological problems such as the mothers of martyrs because they need psychological support.
The number of people with special needs in Egypt is about 20 million, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics. Those 20 million need about 40 million people to help them during their everyday life, which requires the centre to support a huge community across the country.
“We aspire to expand in European countries and America to support the disabled and their families through our offices around the world after signing cooperation protocols with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Egypt’s embassies in European countries,” Abdallah confirmed.
The first event of the Arab International Festival for People with Special Needs was held for three days, and included art and handmade products exhibitions. This festival aims to achieve social integration between people with special abilities and ordinary individuals, he stressed.
The festival also aims to promote the work made by people with special needs and provide job opportunities for them.
“We also held art competitions to display the works of people with special needs in cooperation with the Syndicate of Fine Artists,” he clarified.
In Suez governorate, the centre established a rehabilitation centre for people with special needs, as well as presenting many plays for people with special needs under the auspices of the festival.
The centre also opened three offices to support people with special needs in Menoufia governorate.
“We also applied a proposal plan to the Egyptian Ministry of Education and Technical Education to train teachers on how to deal with students with special needs and provide psychological rehabilitation for healthy students in order to integrate students with special needs in normal schools,” he emphasized.
Moreover, Vice President, Mental Health and Family Counselling Specialist, Dr. Abeer Saad, said that when any case with a disability comes to the centre, it prepares a comprehensive file about them, and through communication with the person’s family, the centre prepares counselling and rehabilitation sessions for this family to deal with various cases of disabilities.
She also explained that each case has a different treatment programme, and they are trained on the basis of social inclusion, through organizing field trips for people with disabilities and training them on how to act in different situations.
Saad added that the centre has organized trips in supermarkets and hotels to train people with mental disabilities on how they should engage in social life.
“We trained them to depend on themselves and work in simple jobs to financially support themselves,” she said, noting that the centre also trains people with special needs on how to walk in the street and not to draw the attention of passers-by.