|About the presenter: Joseph Lukong is the Coordinator General of the Speak Clear Association of Cameroon, a support organization for people who stutter. He is a member of International Fluency Association since February 2002. He writes, "I have stuttered all through my life as have several members of my family. I hold a BA in Law from the University of Yaounde Cameroon and have worked in a law firm in Douala and now I work as a consultant for CAJUREC a debt recovery and legal counseling enterprise in Douala. I also serve as a volunteer worker in a local NGO called SHUMAS that works for the marginalized and less privileged members of society. This NGO also fights to improve the living conditions of people here. I am a Roman Catholic Christian and enjoy reading the Bible and attending ecumenical church services."|
Africa is the world's second largest continent with a surface area of 30.244.050 Sq Km (11 677 240 sq miles). It is situated at the South of Europe and between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Africa has 52 independent countries and most of these countries were colonized at different eras. Africa has a population of about 800 million inhabitants . The socio-economic situation in Africa is characterized by poverty, tribal conflicts and wars, poor roads and communication network, hunger and malnutrition, prevalence of deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, typhoid, tuberculosis etc.
Africa has a rapid growing population as a result of high birth rate and the life expectancy is very low. Due to some of these conditions, little attention is given to stuttering as a health care problem. There are about 8 million people in Africa affected by stuttering given the universally accepted rate of 1% stutterers of a given population. The rate of stuttering may be quite high in Africa given the fact that some tribes in West and Central Africa have been noted to have several members affected by stuttering.
The situation of people who stutter (PWS) in Africa is difficult due to the absence of adequate information on the causes and treatment of this disorder. This is further complicated due to absence of trained and qualified professionals and structures to take care of the several persons who stutter in Africa.
In the absence of all what is stated above people who stutter (PWS) in Africa often resort to the available traditional and at times very crude and unpleasant methods of treatment available for stuttering. It was to fill this vacuum that exists in relation to the provision of health care for people who stutter in Africa that the International Stuttering Association (ISA) in collaboration with the Speak Clear Association of Cameroon (SCAC) decided to organize in Douala Cameroon, from 6 -8 October the first ever African conference on stuttering having the theme "UNDERSTANDING STUTTERING AND ITS TREATMENT."
ORIGIN OF THE IDEA
It was in February 2004 during the world congress for people who stutter (PWS) that held in Perth-Western Australia that the idea of bringing help to people who stutter in the developing world originated. The first meeting to discuss this idea was held at Perth and was attended by the following. Peggy Walhaus, David Shapiro, Mark Irwin, Stephan Hoffmann, Dorvan Breitenfeldt, Joseph Lukong, Dao Moussa, Joan Girson and Indra Shrestha.
Discussions during this meeting centered on how stuttering speech therapy could be made available to countries of the developing word. This program was to take the form of the well known "medicines sans frontiers" (Doctors Without Boarders).
This meeting was followed up by email discussions and it was decided to name this program "International Speech Project-Stuttering" (ISP-S) with a committee under the International Stuttering Association, ISA created to run it. The inauguration of the ISP-S was to take place in Douala Cameroon, during the first African conference on stuttering.
CONFERENCE PLANNING, PREPARATION AND PROMOTION
To prepare for this historic conference in Africa and to plan the launch of ISP-S, a committee was created to take care of this within the ISA. It was composed of Mark Irwin, Joseph Lukong, Moussa Dao and Stephan Hoffman. The committee held its deliberations over the internet and a local organizing committee for the conference was created in Cameroon that met regularly to plan for this conference.
The conference planning committee produced a conference brochure having adequate information concerning the event that was circulated through out Cameroon, Africa and in other parts of the world. The mass media in Cameroon, Africa and France was mobilized to sensitize potential delegates for the conference. Special mention should be made here of the work done by Anne Marie Simon, a speech pathologist based in Paris over Radio France Internationale (RFI) which has a wide audience in Africa to inform potential attendees from French speaking Africa.
Conference attendees came from the following African countries : Cameroon, Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso, Tchad, Republic of Congo, D.R Congo, Burundi, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Sudan and Ghana. Delegates from the following Africa countries manifested interest in the conference but could not make it to the conference due to other commitments: Mauritania, Niger, Algeria, Cote d'Ivoire, Rwanda, Tanzania, Senegal, Mauritius, Tunisia, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
The African delegates were principally people who stutter (PWS) and we are in regular touch with those who attended the conference and those who could and all are working hard in spreading information about stuttering in their various countries. From outside of Africa, delegates came from the following countries : France, Germany, USA, Australia, India and the UK. These were principally speech and language pathologists, psychologists, educators, researchers and renowned members of the International Self help movement for people who stutter.
The conference opening ceremony was presided over by a representative of the Right Honorable Governor of the Littoral, Administrative Province of Cameroon in the presence of the Lord Mayor of Douala town. Also present were all provincial delegates representing the various ministries such as that of Education, Public Health, Social Affairs and Communications.
PRE-CONFERENCE ACTIVITIES AND CONFERENCE PRESENTATIONS
Prior to the conference, David Shapiro and Anne Marie Simon, speech language pathologists from the USA and France respectively offered clinical services to children and adults who stutter. Equally they offered training sessions to teachers, psychologists, parents of children who stutter and the medical corps on how to help people who stutter (PWS). They attended religious and socio cultural meetings where they were given the chance to pass on valuable information in relation to stuttering.
During the conference, presentations that were made centered on the causes, treatment and latest developments in the field of stuttering. Experienced members of International self help movement for PWS gave presentations touching on how to create and run a support group for PWS. PWS from Africa gave personal testimonies about themselves and the situation of stuttering in theirs respective countries. The conference deliberations were carried out either in English or French which are the major languages spoken in Africa and simultaneously translated into the other languages. Our gratitude goes to the SCAC members coached and led by Musa Fonyuy for the help with these translations.
LAUNCH OF INTERNATIONAL SPEECH PROJECT-STUTTERING (ISP-S)
During the conference the ISP-S was formally launched which aims at developing self help groups for PWS in developing countries. With the existence of these support groups the ISP-S will liaise with experienced speech and language pathologist to provide information to PWS and to general public and to provide clinical services to PWS in developing countries. International funding bodies and other interested persons are called upon to support this project. Any one interested in either becoming a volunteer or donating to the ISP-S should please contact: Mark Irwin (Australia) firstname.lastname@example.org..au David Shapiro (USA) Shapiro@email.wcu.edu Anne Marie Simon (France) email@example.com.
Outcome of the conference
The International Stuttering Association(ISA) and the Speak Clear Association of Cameroon(SCAC) took up the challenge to raise funds to organize this conference and to funds the travel cost of 2 delegates per African country to attend this conference. To this effect several aid agencies diplomatic missions and churches were contacted . Unfortunately none of these bodies supported the conference. Donations came from some affiliated members of the ISA and some individuals out of Africa and in Cameroon. Due to budgetary constraints half of the travel cost of one delegate per African country was paid for by the organizers as well as the total cost of lodging for all African delegates. We wish to thank each and every one who contributed in one way or the other to the success of this event.
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