Kenya Defence Forces personnel and their families from Lanet Region in conjunction with Military Wives Association (MWAK) on 31 March 2023 congregated at Lanet Barracks to raise awareness on Autism as the world prepares to commemorate World Autism Day on 02 April. World Autism Day celebrated annually to raise awareness about autism and promote inclusion for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This year’s theme is ”Transforming the Narrative: Contributions at home, at work, in the arts and in policymaking”.
The event started with a walk around Lanet Barracks to create awareness about autism, followed by a series of speeches highlighting the importance of inclusion and acceptance of individuals with ASD. The families of children with autism also shared their experiences and challenges.
During the celebrations, Deputy Senior Medical Officer at Lanet Regional Hospital Lieutenant Colonel Rose Kemboi advised KDF families with autistic children not to underestimate their potential because they have the capability to achieve exploits. In addition, she highlighted the Kenyan government’s initiatives to establish policies that facilitate affirmative action for autistic individuals in terms of opportunities.
The technical adviser for the day, Mr. David Maina, who is also the Director of Rafa Institute of Disability Care Studies, encouraged parents with autistic children to adopt dietary habits that do not hinder brain activity, such as avoiding sugars, wheat products, and processed foods. He further advised parents to expose their children to physical exercise to help dissipate their high energy potential.
MWAK Lanet Region Representative Mrs. Maureen Kamoiro in her speech indicated that the event aimed at celebrating the resilience of those affected by autism and promote awareness of the disorder. She highlighted that although awareness of autism within the KDF and the nation has grown significantly over the years, people on the autism spectrum are still misunderstood by many.
Mrs. Kamoiro further urged everyone to mobilise their friends and families to participate in a marathon scheduled for June 18, 2023, to raise funds for a Centre of Excellence for special needs children in Roysambu, Nairobi.
MWAK has partnered with various organisations to support children with special needs, including those with autism, physical impairments, and cerebral palsy. MWAK is also advocating for the creation of a network to raise awareness of autism and challenges faced by caregivers within the community. All these efforts are in line with Chief of the Defence Forces 8-point agenda on health which include developing a robust soldier-centred welfare framework and a health care system that is aligned to the challenges of an increasingly complex and uncertain operating environment.