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Up to 2,800 children diagnosed with autism in Kurdistan Region: statistics

A child diagnosed with autism in Erbil, April 2, 2019.
2019-04-03

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SULAIMANI — Up to 2,800 children have been diagnosed with autism in the Kurdistan Region, but there are not enough support centers or funding to care for them.

Statistics provided by the Kurdistan Autism Group show that there are only three government centers for autistic children in the Region and nearly 100 families have taken their children abroad to receive treatment over the last three years.

Families of the children told NRT Digital Media that they cannot afford to take their children to private centers because they are too expensive.

“The condition of children diagnosed with autism is bad in general. Not all families can take their children to private centers,” a father who spoke to NRT Digital Media said. 

Nearly 1,000 children with autism live in Erbil province, but there is only one center for treatment. It currently cares for 32 children, the group said.

Governor of Erbil Nawzad Hadi said a center with professional caregivers would need a dedicated budget and that they have been urging the government to provide one.

“We have called on the presidency of Council of Ministers to provide the monthly budget for the center,” he told NRT Digital Media.

At an event marking World Autism Awareness Day at a new center in Sulaimani, some participants noted that there appeared to be momentum toward allocating additional resources for autism care.

“Autism Awareness Day is especially important for us in the Middle East and the Kurdistan Region because there is so little public understanding,” Director of Sulaimani’s American Corner Hawbir Hama Ali told NRT Digital Media.

“This year is the first time that a symposium like this is being held in the new Autism Center [here in Sulaimani],” he added, saying that it would be an important venue for the public to learn more about autism and to support autistic individuals and their families.

The University of Sulaimani and the American Corner were sponsors of the event along with the College of Nursing and the Autism Center of Sulaimani, which was attended by doctors, medical students, government officials, families, and children.

(NRT Digital Media)