This is my first blog as editor of Learning Disability Today. I am driven by the belief that while health is unpredictable, opportunities should be equal and underwritten. Through your contributions to our news site and your support on social media, we all have an opportunity to spread this message through society, particularly by highlighting examples of social injustice.
Today is international nurses day. It is also a milestone day for the Zika virus carried by some mosquitoes - more on that later.
My thoughts as I write this are with the thousands of nurses, therapists and parents supporting children growing up with severe learning disabilities and uncontrolled seizures caused not just by the Zika virus, but by a range of other health complications. There are kids with microcephaly (characterised by smaller heads and brain damage) in the UK, Brazil and around the world. With the right medical support they will confound projected life expectancies. But only with equal access to good education can they prosper like the successful journalist Ana Carolina Caceres, born with learning disabilities caused by microcephaly.
Emergency over? It's only just begun.
Caceres' country has today declared the health emergency over. The government's statement is grounded in statistics indicating new cases have dropped by 95 percent in the last year. Well, things have only just begun for Brazil's 'Zika babies'. These are people, not statistics.
Last year I visited care and education providers Pestalozzi, based in the north of Rio de Janeiro state. The nurses were supporting nine very young children with microcephaly during my stay. Five of these, those with the most severe symptoms, live with microcephaly known to be caused by the mosquito virus Zika.
One member of staff used his finger and thumb to make a shape an inch wide to illustrate the head size of new-borns that had been brought to them.
Static state subsidies
I asked if the government had provided any extra money for Pestalozzi to source specialist therapists needed to treat the children who have presented the most complex needs the organisation has been exposed to in its 69-year history.
The answer was 'no'. £5 per therapy session was (is) the only support the state provides. I was told that partial subsidy had been the same for almost ten years and had remained static despite the Zika crisis.
Pestalozzi's bigger source of income is charity donations; the generosity of the public. This money goes on everything from physiotherapy to speech therapy to - and this is crucial to aspirations - education. Low income families receive these services for free. You can donate here if you wish.
Alternatively, show your support for people with learning disabilities worldwide through raising awareness that the Zika crisis will not be over until greater attention is given to children living with microcephaly. Share this post or write your own. Learning disability should be no barrier to medical support, nor to the right to good education and a full life.