Sense India and Sense International responded to the announcement from The World Health Organization that the recent cluster of microcephaly and other neurological abnormalities linked to the Zika virus outbreak, predominately in Latin America, constitutes a “public health emergency of international concern.”
WHO Director General, Margaret Chan, called Zika an “extraordinary event” that required a global co-ordinated response. Sense India and Sense International support the WHO’s declaration as a call to action that will mobilise the necessary resources and international focus to prevent the further spread of the Zika virus.
Sense India and Sense International encourage the WHO, Governments and donors to not forget in their response to this public health emergency, that long term measures and resources will also need to be put into place to ensure the rights of the children born with microcephaly can access the early intervention, education, life and vocational training that they will need to reach their full potential.
Akhil S Paul, Director, Sense India, said:
“Outbreaks of newer viruses like Zika throw up enormous challenges for people living in any society across economic structures and the governments they belong to. But as always, the impact of the virus is magnified in vulnerable communities. Deafblindness is one of the many complications this virus brings and we at Sense India are sufficiently equipped and committed to supporting parents to educate, nurture and enable children with microcephaly and multi-sensory impairments live life to the fullest”
Gillian Morbey OBE, Chief Executive of Sense and Sense International, said:
“We welcome the World Health Organisation’s commitment to addressing the growing numbers of babies being born with microcephaly and other associated neurological abnormalities, through its focus on containing and eliminating the Zika virus.”
"Sense was founded by families of those born with congenital rubella syndrome during the Rubella outbreak of the 1950s and 60s in Britain. We know from experience that the right support is crucial to helping a person with deafblindness develop to their full potential.
“We encourage the international community to develop the measures and resources that will be required to ensure that the children and families affected by the virus receive the support they will need.”
“Sense International will focus its advice and support to those regions most affected, on these vital long term services for babies born with microcepahly and their families.”
About the Zika Virus:
The Zika virus can be transmitted through certain mosquito species, generally resulting in a relatively mild illness in infected persons. However, experts advising the WHO agreed that there is a strong causal relationship between Zika infections during pregnancy and the recent cluster of babies born with microcephaly, and that this is of the greatest concern.
Microcephaly is a condition in which babies are born with heads which are smaller than expected and it is often associated with incomplete brain development. These children can also display a range of other mild to severe health issues including; seizures, developmental delay (such as with speech, balance and movement), intellectual disability, feeding problems, as well as combined hearing and vision loss.
Yashwanthini's Story: A girl child with deafblindness and microcephaly
Yashwanthini is a six-year-old girl with deafblindness. She has partial vision and hearing loss along with microcephaly and cerebral palsy.
Currently she is receiving rehabilitation training at the Sense India deafblind unit in SPASTN, Chennai. The only child of her parents Mr. Sekar and Mrs. Kanaga, the exact cause for Yashwanthini’s disability is still unknown. Her mother’s medical history includes information of an attempted abortion, excess bleeding during pregnancy and an improper delivery via forceps.
Yashwanthini was two-and-a-half-years-old when she was referred to SPASTN. But her dual sensory impairment (hearing and vision aka deafblindness) was identified only after the deafblind program was initiated there by Sense India. Once identified with deafblindness along with microcephaly she was shifted to the deafblind program, where she receives centre based service thrice a week. Yashwanthini’s mother accompanies her to the centre. Her mother is trained and counselled in developing communication, daily life-skills and understanding her daughter’s needs better.
Yashwanthini is now utilizing her residual senses well. She also recognizes few objects and their functions. Her teacher says that she has a keen interest in all classroom activities. Her parents are proud. From a child who could hardly understand the world around her to now learning to perform everyday tasks independently.
Murray Culshaw -17th Feb, 2016
Most certainly, let us do all we can.