NEWS

Thalidomide survivors hopeful about meeting with Rona Ambrose

12/01/2014 12:46 EST | Updated 01/31/2015 05:59 EST
Thalidomide survivors are hoping a long-awaited meeting with federal Health Minister Rona Ambrose in Ottawa today will yield a commitment from the government for more financial support.

Mercedes Benegbi, a thalidomide survivor and executive director of the Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada, said her group is looking for a made-in-Canada solution that would include some immediate financial support as well as a long-term commitment.

"We need to receive a lump sum amount first, approximately $250,000, and this is just to answer our urgent needs right now —​ and an agreement on long term financial support, approximately between $75,000 and $150,000 a year depending on the level of disability," Benegbi told CBC News on Monday.

"I trust very much that our health minister will listen to me and I'm going over there with a spirit of partnership and we will find a solution."

All the victims were born to mothers who took the government-approved drug in the 1950s and 1960s without knowing of its disastrous side-effects.

Though a lump sum payment was given by the government to victims in the 1990s as compensation, aging survivors say more is needed to cope with their day-to-day needs.

Benegbi said while thalidomide survivors have done their best to be autonomous, there's no doubt their health is deteriorating. 

Daily activities that most Canadians take for granted — taking a shower, getting dressed, preparing meals — are becoming increasingly difficult for aging survivors, she said.

Ambrose has called the thalidomide disaster an incredibly tragic event and has said she wants to work with survivors.

The meeting comes the same day as the House of Commons is expected to vote on an NDP motion of support for the survivors.

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