In my previous episode of April 2, 2020, I expressed the fear that persons with disability might not be given the needed attention in the Government of Ghana's interventions to mitigate the current economic hardship in the country, occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. My fear was hinged on what is gradually becoming the norm-not prioritizing issues of disability. And there are already signs of that fear manifesting.
The promise by the Government to roll out relief interventions to alleviate the impact of the present economic hardship became more realistic after the President's 5th address to the nation on April 5, 2020, on the COVID-19 pandemic. We have seen some actions being taken in that regard, especially to make things easy for the vulnerable. However, some flaws are being spotted and failure to correct them and on time, is likely to undermine the very spirit of the intervention.
Considering the conditions of persons with a disability, one would expect that they would be attended to specially, as is being done in the case of the head porters (Kayayei). However, they have been lumped up with other groups, a situation that is drowning them already.
Even more worrying is the sidelining of the social welfare department in this whole exercise; the state's own agency that is supposed to be responsible for championing the wellbeing of the vulnerable. It was expected that being a state agency attached to all the Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies across the country, and having some data on the vulnerable, which includes but not limited to persons with a disability, victims of HIV/AIDS, orphans, children with chronic sicknesses, missing children and the aged, social welfare would be made to lead the process.
In such a situation, anybody who is not captured in the database could get registered and attended to on the same day. This would not only ensure that the real vulnerable in the society become the beneficiaries of the intervention, but also go a long way to contribute to data collection, which is one thing this country lacks.
On the contrary, the exercise is being carried out by the National Disaster Management Organization (NADMO), in collaboration with churches. NADMO is giving the items to the local council of churches in the districts, who are now determining who the vulnerable and needy in the communities are, with only one toll-free number given out for the entire country as the means by which the vulnerable could call for the relief items. And for days now, members of a disability advocacy group, Ghana Disability Forum, have been calling but without success; resulting in heightened fear that they might miss out on this intervention in the long run.
Sidelining the social welfare department in such an exercise only goes to confirm Ghana's disregard for systems. If the social welfare department of the MMDAs can not be useful in a time like this, one wonders when they could ever be.
The effectiveness of the current implementation procedure is in doubt, as it has the possibility of making people who do not qualify as the vulnerable in society enjoy the intervention at the expense of the actual needy. It is also feared that this process could further spread the virus since the prescribed social distancing protocol is not be observed at the centers monitored so far.
Apart from allowing the social welfare to lead, or at least be made part of the process, separate hotlines could also be given to each district to make it easy for the vulnerable to call for help. Until these are done, one can be certain that a great number of the actual vulnerable in society are going to be deprived of the intervention that is meant to cushion them in these very difficult times.
Benjamin Nii-Lartey Ayiku (BNA)
(Africa Disability Rights Journalist, 2019)
Email: [email protected]