ICI Trains First Cohort of Community-Based Rehabilitation Facilitators in Liberia

Thu Jan 17 2019
Project consultant Mikala Mukongolwa (seated) is pictured guiding a 6-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, showing his aunt (caregiver) and teachers how to provide physical therapy to help him with balance, coordination, and free movement of his legs.

In December 2018, over 40 members of the first cohort of community-based rehabilitation (CBR) facilitators benefited from a series of trainings in CBR approaches and methods presented by ICI in three counties in Liberia. ICI staff member Macdonald Metzger and project consultant Mikala Mukongolwa implemented the training in Margibi, Bomi, and Montserrado counties, December 10–14. Based on a request from the Special and Inclusive Education Department at the country’s Ministry of Education, the team also held a training session with the staff of the department.

“ICI’s work in Liberia is a much-needed effort,” says Metzger. “Liberia needs all the help it can get. People with disabilities and their families are desperate for information and education. The community needs awareness and education to help with behavior and attitudinal change. Additionally, the national government needs technical assistance and support to help formulate policies that safeguard and improve the quality of lives of people with disabilities.”

The classroom training was followed by home visits to children with intellectual and developmental disabilities where trainees and parents watched Mukongolwa demonstrate practical CBR interventions, including support strategies to help children with hearing and speech, mobility, learning, and social interaction difficulties, as well as epileptic seizures and other conditions. Mukongolwa (seated) is pictured guiding a 6-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, showing his aunt (caregiver) and teachers how to provide physical therapy to help him with balance, coordination, and free movement of his legs. Parents and family members learned about their children’s disabilities and how they and CBR facilitators could support the children at home and in the community.

The World Health Organization and UNESCO recognize CBR as a model for community rehabilitation and provision of therapeutic supports to people with disabilities in remote and rural indigenous communities. “Supports in Liberia are centralized, obligating family caregivers to travel long distances — often on foot — to rural health centers,” says Metzger. “But CBR builds local volunteer networks to support people with disabilities in their own communities. This means services and supports that improve their overall functioning and quality of life in things like mobility, special education, and employment. CBR promotes equal opportunity and the social inclusion of people with disabilities.”

Metzger, who was born in Liberia, directs ICI’s project, Community-based Rehabilitation Approaches for Family Caregivers and People Who Support Adults and Children with Disabilities.