BY LORRAINE MUROMO/METHEMBE SIBANDA
THE United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has urged African governments to unconditionally support people with disabilities (PWDs) with monthly cash transfers to alleviate poverty amongst them caused by stigma and discrimination.
Under the Disabled Persons Act, the government has a fund to support PWDs as part of its social safety net programmes, but the disbursements have been erratic.
The harmonized cash transfer programme is supposed to generate capital for income generating projects, and to ensure that PWDs procure assistive devices like wheelchairs, prosthetic limbs, and pay school fees, and other bills.
In a statement yesterday during the Global Disability Summit 2022, UNICEF regional director Mohamed Fall said disability inclusion was an important aspect of ensuring that PWDs are well catered for.
The summit brings together UN agencies, governments, civic society organisations and other stakeholders to discuss inclusive policies for the marginalised, including PWDs,
Fall said millions of PWDs around the globe, including nearly 240 million children, faced neglect, marginalization, and were deprived of their rights to basic social services including health, education and social protection.
“Disability inclusion has become an integral part of our work and we look forward to collaborating with our fellow UN agencies to create a more inclusive society where girls and boys with disabilities can thrive,” Fall said.
Since 2021, UNICEF has supported over 12,000 persons with disabilities and their families with emergency cash transfers in response to COVID-19 and drought across Zambia, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and Kenya in a bid to strengthen national social protection systems to become more inclusive.
United Nations secretary-General Antonio Guterres also called upon leaders to commit to change for inclusion and equitable access to health services for PWDs.
“In developing countries which are strangled financially, people with disabilities are among the first victims in the health systems,”Guterres said.
“Everyone, everywhere must be free to go to school, to access health care, to start a family, have decent work, and participate fully in all spheres of economic, social, cultural, and political life.”
Guterres further called upon the global financial system to allow far greater investments in disability inclusion to create accessible environments and opportunities everywhere.