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03.11.2008 Health

Children under 18 to benefit from free NHIS

By The Statesman

The Minister for Women and Children's Affairs, Hajia Alima Mahama, has disclosed that government has proposed an amendment to the National Health Insurance Scheme law to enable all children less than 18 years of age to access the scheme free of charge.

The NHIS law provides that both parents of a child below 18 years should be registered with the scheme before the child can qualify to access medical care free of charge.

Speaking at the Second National Forum on Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Accra, Hajia Mahama observed that the law as it stand now, defeats the essence of protecting and helping children, especially orphaned and vulnerable ones in society to have access to free health care.

She disclosed that currently the Attorney-General"s Department is studying and fine tuning the proposal before it is presented to parliament for approval and passage into law.

The National Forum on Orphans and Vulnerable Children brought together NGO's and other civil society stakeholders for the official presentation by the Department of Social Welfare of the First National Plan of Action for Orphans and Vulnerable Children and of the Care Reform Initiative.

Giving a presentation on the National Plan of Action, Stephen Adongo, Deputy Director of the Department of Social Welfare, indicated that the plan of action emanated from the first Orphans and Vulnerable Children forum held in 2005, which he noted was HIV/AIDS biased.

He said since that forum the country had initiated a lot of programmes all aimed at improving and protecting the Ghanaian child. He added that the National Action Plan infringes on children's rights.

According to him, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as a person below the age of 18.

He however, noted that the definition of an OVC is a child below 18 years who has lost one or both parents.

 He said children represent 47.5 percent of the total population of Ghana adding that Ghana seemed to be on track to achieving the universal education and gender parity in primary education of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

Mr Adongo disclosed that the National Plan of Action is a three-year scheme focused on children, notably the most vulnerable in the Ghanaian society.

He pointed out that the plan is divided into three strategies, namely, prevention, protection and transformation.

Other presentations made at the forum were on the Care Reform Initiative, by Mrs Helena Obeng-Asamoah, a Coordinator at the Department of Social Welfare and on the LEAP by Mr William Niyuni, Assistant Director of LEAP at the Department.