Please help the Disabled

MONROVIA-In  many countries around  the world,  there are various types of programs  to  cater to the welfare of people with disabilities.

But in Liberia, the story is different. According to UN statistics, there are currently over 600 million persons with disabilities throughout the world of whom 400 million live in developing countries and 80 million in Africa. A World Health Organization source maintains that about forty percent of Africa’s population consists of people with disabilities, including 10-15 percent of school-age children. This percentage would translate into about 300 million people with disabilities in Africa. Disability is caused by many factors, including malnutrition and disease, environmental hazards, traffic and industrial accidents, and civil conflict and war, and the number of people with disabilities continues to increase.

Liberia falls within this  category. Today, in the national budget, it is stated that  about  less than three percent of the  national budget is given to the ministry of Health and  Social Welfare for the it to cater to people  with  disabilities in the county.  Liberia and for that matter, the vast majority of Africans with disabilities are excluded from schools and opportunities for work, virtually guaranteeing that they live as the poorest of the poor. School enrolment for the disabled is estimated at no more than 5-10 percent and as many as 70-80 percent of working age people with disabilities are unemployed. The social stigma associated with disability results in marginalization and isolation, often leading to begging as the sole means of survival.

This amount is only  seen on papers but there is no partiality to see that they have special programs. What is rather seen is their movement on various street corners with children begging.

We think that it is about time that  government pays  keen attention to people with disabilities  in this country. Already there is serious economic situation in the country.  What would happen to them if they are not taken care of.  Remember these are Liberians and they have all rights to better social services, irrespective of their conditions.

We call on the government to act and  do something for them.

From the African scene, the OAU (now African Union), African governments and NGOs have taken steps to address the disability problem in Africa. In 1988, the African Rehabilitation Institute (ARI) was established in Harare. This Specialized Agency of the AU reports to the political organs of the AU on disability issues and coordinates all matters relating to disability in Africa. Pressures exerted by disabled persons organizations contributed to the proclamation of the African Decade of Disabled Persons (2000-2009) at the OAU Assembly of Heads of State and Government, meeting at Lomé in July 2000.

The aim of the Decade is to promote awareness and commitment to full participation, equality and empowerment of persons with disabilities in Africa. Responsibility for organizing the Decade was given to ARI, together with the Pan African Federation of Disabled Persons (PAFOD) , the African Union of the Blind (AFUB) and other regional organizations of persons with disabilities. A Plan of Action was adopted at the Pan African Conference on the African Decade of Disabled Persons in February 2002.

The Secretariat of the African Decade of Persons with Disabilities (SADPD) office opened in Cape Town in 2004 and with the support of key donors from Denmark and Sweden work started in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda and Senegal. Since then the Secretariat’s work has spread throughout the region of West Africa. Work has also been initiated in the southern African countries Namibia and Tanzania, and plans have been made for South Africa.

Liberia  is a part of the global society and it is  time to ensure that these people welfare is taken  seriously.

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