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NGO Caring for Disabled Children
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NGO Caring for Disabled Children

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) play a major role in tackling social problems and raising awareness on various social issues. Campaigning groups have also been key drivers of inter-governmental negotiations, ranging from the regulation of hazardous wastes to a global ban on land mines. Today the role of NGOs in addressing social issues has become all the more apparent.
Khosro Mansourian, who has spent a good few decades doing social work, believes NGOs are instrumental in addressing social ills. “NGOs are a relatively new phenomenon in Iran,” he says.
Mansourian, who started the Foundation to Support Disabled Children and Adolescents, told Iran newspaper that “NGOs should not be dependent on government for their survival or else they are not NGOs anymore.’’ He expressed satisfaction that a new government initiative is on the agenda to give NGOs more autonomy to do their work unhampered.
Presently, the foundation is assisting youngsters with speech, work and physical therapies until the age of 16 and should they need surgery, their expenses are covered through charity funds. Some of their other work includes looking after children and women with HIV, he said.
Mansourian believes that disabled children “are largely neglected because taking care of them is costly and nurturing them is not an easy task.” They also have programs to support widows and other vulnerable women with job training to help them stand on their own feet.

 Fighting Diseases
Nowadays numerous issues like road fatalities, air pollution, drug abuse and other social ills are causes for concern. The rising number of AIDS is also cause for alarm among officials and citizens alike. Recently, a member of the National Committee on AIDS announced that the virus “is making a quiet growth among the population mostly between the ages of 20 to 45.” Dr. Massoud Mardani warned against a resurge in HIV/AIDS.
According to the health ministry, the main cause for the spread of AIDS is use of common syringes among drug abusers. Statistics released by the health ministry point to a nine-fold increase in the number of HIV patients in the last 11 years; an 80% increase. The latest figures for 2013 show that there were 28,888 HIV patients - 88% men and 11% women in the country. Shared needle among addicts is to blame for 67% of the cases and sexual transmission comes next, with 13% of the cases caused by unprotected sex. Street kids have 40 times a higher risk of contracting the virus, he said.

 Social Stigma
The social stigma attached to the disease and discrimination against HIV patients make it all the more difficult to curb its spread. Telephone counseling is one way to remove the barrier of social disgrace. Nearly 70% of the crisis hotline callers are women.
 Mansourian’s foundation has a hotline of its own that provides telephone counseling to people at risk of HIV infection. The foundation also provides HIV-infected women with free medicine and financial assistance to help them make ends meet.
The secret for NGOs success is not their free services but the trust that people have in their assistance. They talk freely on the hotline and get helpful counseling. Mansourian says education and information play an important role in prevention of such diseases.

 More Work
Mansourian cautions against AIDS and says the figures are much higher than what is deemed. It is necessary for the mass media and community leaders to address the challenge to bring AIDS under control.
He expressed his deep regret about the low participation of people in NGOs. While in Sweden, every 6th individual is a member of an NGO, this figure for Iran is one out of 500,000 individuals, he said  and called for more engagement from people in social work. “The government cannot look after every disabled child or HIV patient,’’ he added.   

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