HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsSociety is judged by how it treats the vulnerable

Society is judged by how it treats the vulnerable

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The last couple of years have seen a steady rise in the number of people seeking assistance to enable them undergo treatment for various ailments among others.

Only last week we carried the story of seven-year-old Takunda Katiyo of Kuwadzana, who is suffering from a rare skin disease seeking financial help.

His father said he developed the disease when he was only three months old.

The father is not employed, and cannot manage medical expenses.

Our sister paper, The Standard, also carried two stories both of which are social welfare cases.

A stroke victim is now running a crèche on a $50 pension while another article in the same paper, indicated that some pensioners are surviving on less than 25c a day.

Where did the wheels come off?

The failure of the social welfare system means vulnerable members of society have nowhere to turn to for help.

When the state fails to look after its poor citizens, then it ceases to be a people’s government.

Lack of government guidelines on administering social welfare grants to the vulnerable has led to cases where households that are not in need have benefited.

The Basic Education Assistance Module is a case in point.

There should be a social protection policy to provide guidelines to reducing poverty and providing poor households with welfare.

Receiving a regular income, however small, is definitely helpful as the vulnerable groups can plan ahead.

It is important to note that cushioning the poor can help meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), specifically the first goal of reducing extreme poverty and hunger among society’s most vulnerable groups.

The jury is out on whether the government is liable for not meeting the MDGs, having signed international conventions on human rights which oblige it to provide social protection.

It is only logical to use social protection to address vulnerable groups because most of our citizens are in one way or another affected by HIV and Aids.

With no meaningful source of livelihood, this is where social protection comes in and it must become an obligation for government to provide it.

The task of social welfare service is to provide a comprehensive package of social development services to people who, due to factors such as disability, poverty and HIV and Aids, are vulnerable and in need of assistance.

Welfare service delivery is a functional area of concurrent national competence in the Constitution, which means responsibility lies with the Ministry of Labour and Social Services.

Recently, flamboyant businessman Phillip Chiyangwa and former deputy Finance minister David Chapfika mobilised $300 000 for Big Brother Africa All-Stars finalist Munyaradzi Chidzonga for his antics in the reality television show.

President Robert Mugabe jumped on the bandwagon and handed over the cheque.

There are still businesspeople able to mobilise huge sums for social issues.

Why not do it for millions of vulnerable people in society?

It is a fact one of the most problematic features of the social welfare system is underfunding of social welfare services.

The social welfare assistance and services component of the welfare budget has remained static and inadequate for years.

Welfare services are inadequately funded.

The government’s contribution to welfare services is far smaller than that of formal and informal welfare sectors.

We call upon Finance minister Tendai Biti to consider allocating welfare services a bigger slice of the total social development budget for 2011.

But this developmental approach calls for innovative strategies designed for vulnerable individuals and families to increase their capacity to earn a living through employment creation, skills development, access to credit and, where possible, by facilitating a transition from informal to formal employment.

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