100 000 disabled children fed on mediocre N$2m
About 116 614 disabled children survived on a pathetic N$2 million grant a year from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare amid a robustly marketed drive to improve standards of living for the poor by Government.
Minister of Gender, Doreen Sioka who describes the funding to children with a disability as mediocre told The Villager that Namibia has approximately 135 598 children living with a disability and 86% of them (116 614) benefit from the Government’s grants meant improve their livelihoods.
Government gives a miserable N$200 per month to the children living with a disability to cater for all their basic needs including clothing, food, daily essential and upkeep
She said the grants which are paid out to minor children living with disabilities identified by the ministry are not enough to sustain their livelihoods, adding that these grants have also not increased in the last five years.
“We acknowledge that the grants which the ministry currently offers to cover the cost of maintenance under the special maintenance grant programme are insufficient, but the ministry cannot avail more funds towards the initiative because of budgetary constraints”, she said.
Sioka said the final decision lies with the Ministry of Finance, which is responsible for budgetary allocations.
In addition, the ministry has been reluctant to increase the grants over the years because most of the children who benefit from the programme are also covered in the government’s social welfare grant for people living with disabilities.
“What we give here is just to subsidise the N$600 grant which most of the children already receive from government, but there are still those who depend solely on the special maintenance grant. Thus, we have to cater for them”, she stated.
Meanwhile, the National Federation of People with Disabilities in Namibia (NFPDN)’s chairman Gideon Nasilowski referred to the limited funding of the maintenance programme as another method of the marginalisation of disabled people in the country.
He said the ministry’s programme, although a good initiative, can be more efficient in providing financial support to children with disabilities, and providing for their upkeep should there be a yearly inflationary increment.
“We appreciate the government’s efforts towards making life easier for people living with disabilities. However, there is a need to increase these initiatives, especially with regards to children”, Nasilowski stated.
He said Namibia has major inequalities in opportunities and wealth between the rich and poor. People with disabilities can thus be doubly disadvantaged due to living in poverty and being unable to maximise on opportunities, achieving their potential, being stigmatised due to society’s ignorance as well as physically being denied access to buildings and opportunities.
In addition, the NFPDN will continue to lobby for the rights of all people with disabilities, and challenge stigmatisation, develop a strong and cohesive voice to advocate on behalf of people with disabilities, with lawmakers, civil servants, service providers and the media.
According to a UNICEF report on people living with disabilities, Namibia only ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007.
The country also ratified the convention’s Optional Protocol, which allows for the referral of individual complaints to the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Despite the convention’s policies promoting inclusive education, many Namibian children with disabilities do not have access to education.
The ‘Disability Policy Audit’ by the Southern African Federation of the Disabled, conducted in 2008, shows that over 50 per cent of Namibian children with disabilities never attended primary school. This problem is especially acute in rural areas.
Namibia has experienced sustained economic growth since gaining independence in 1990, which has placed the country into the category of upper-middle-income countries, but this growth has not been equitable – making the country one of the most unequal in the world.
But with the launch of the National Agenda for Children and this year’s focus on the rights of children with disabilities, the future is looking brighter for vulnerable children.