A study into the growing number of disabled beggars on the streets of Anambra State has revealed that stigmatization by the people and marginalization by the government are factors that fuel the culture, but respite is on the way. OKEY CHRIS reports from Awka.
All doors closed to people living with disability in Anambra State, in areas of employment, education, self employment and medical services are on the verge of being opened soonest, a survey has revealed.
The comprehensive survey was carried out by a group comprising six NGOs viz Care for the Physically Challenged & Destitute Foundation (CAPCADF) Awka, in collaboration with the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD), Anambra Chapter and co-founded by the Justice Development and Peace Commission (JDPC), Onitsha; the Christian Aid Nigeria (CAN) and Development for International Development (DFID) as part of Voice to the People (V2P) Project Phase 11.
Presenting the report, the founder of CAPCADF, Mrs. Gloria Nwafor disclosed that a total of 1500 questionnaires were distributed to persons with disabilities in each of the 44 communities under the three selected LGAs, but 1,244 were returned, out of which 704, representing 56.59%, were males, while 540 (43.41%) were females.
Mrs. Nwafor revealed that the basic tools her team of researchers used to gather data in the study was questionnaires designed to elicit information on the respondents’ sex, age, marital-status, type of impairment, level of education, type of employment and level of participation in governance, etc.
She explained that 610 respondents representing 49.04% of persons with impairment had no formal education, while 336 (7.01%) possess primary education as their highest. 33 respondents (2.65%) had vocational education, while those that attained post primary and tertiary institution education were 221 (17%) and 44 (3.54%).
The report made available to Daily Times showed that 1,019 respondents (81.91%) are unemployed, 179 respondents (14.15%) are self-employed, 38 (3.05%) work as public servants and 11 (0.88%) work in the private sector, thereby confirming disabled persons’ claims of maginalisation by the Government which failed to include even 1% of their qualified members into the State Civil Service Commission in the last two years.
The report further showed that 942 (75.72%) have not received any form of empowerment from either the government or private individuals, while only 152 (12.22%) received empowerment which include Desktop and laptop computers, shoemaking, sowing and grinding machines, ovens and gas cookers, etc.
Also, 136 (10.93%) once received mobility aids, 12 (0.96%) hearing aids, 2 (0.16%) visual aids, meaning they needed more of such from both the state government and individuals.
On health care, the research report showed that none of the physically challenged person (0%) out of the 1,244 respondents had ever benefited from free health services either from the government or private clinics in Anambra even as 1,010 (81.19%) respondents affirmed that they were often excluded from participating in community meetings against 186 (14.95%), who said they had been involved in such.
Again, 36 (3.14%) respondents said they have been participating in electoral meetings, while 9 (0.72%) also partook in budget meetings.
Delving into the Anambra State 2015 fiscal year budget proposal, the study discovered that the sum of N430, 200,000.00 was mapped out for the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development (the ministry that caters for their needs) out of which N15, 872,541.00 was allocated to the social welfare unit representing 2.7% of the entire social sector and a meager 2.7% of the entire total capital.
They thereby recommended that there should be an increase in allocation on the budget line of assistive-device for persons with disability as N10 million is meager compared to their number in Anambra state.
In the recommendations unanimously endorsed by the physically challenged persons and their care/support groups, they called on the Anambra State Government, the State House of Assembly and other relevant stakeholders to facilitate the passage of Disability Rights Bill into law as that would help in addressing their myriads of needs.
A case was also made for Government to increase their access to education, and for Government at all levels guarantee their members participatory access in policy making, development and implementation to better present and monitor their needs.
While making a case for scholarship scheme to fend for the educationally disadvantaged among them, the report urged government to provide well equipped and functional skills acquisition centres to enable physically challenged persons to develop their talents for self sufficiency because, according to the report, majority of them are capable and ready to join force with their able-bodied counterparts to transform the country through their God giving talents and skills.
It however, pointed out that provisions of mobility aids, hearing aids for the hearing impaired (deaf and dumb), visual aids for the visual impaired (the blind) among others, would give them a sense of belonging and implored relevant agencies and government to assist CAPCADF to carry out another comprehensive mapping study in the remaining 18 LGAs in the state.
Copies of the research reports and charter of demands of the physically challenged persons were last week, presented to the three piloted local government Chairmen and Councilors at their respective Headquarters, as well as to the State Government in Awka.
Reacting to the study, Anambra State Director of Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, Mr. Lawrence Nwanolue, while emphasizing the importance of passing the disability bill into law, pointed out that they are worst sufferers of the poor economic situation in the country despite that they are bonafide citizens and free to participate in all affairs of the society like any other person.
Also speaking, Mr. Uche Egbuluche of the Onitsha JDPC, enjoined the government at all levels to rise up to their responsibilities of catering for the needs of the less privileged and disabled in their societies, stressing that government was the most positioned to champion the course of the entire populace, especially the physically challenged persons.
In his response, the state Commissioner of Women Affairs and Social Development, Hon. Victoria Chikelu and her counterpart in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Budgeting, Prof. Solomon Chukwulobelu, through their representatives, pledged to study the findings and pass them over to Governor Willie Obiano for prompt action.
In a similar vein, Hon. Francisca Nwanne, a Councilor who represented legislative chamber of Idemili North Council Area, while receiving the reports, thanked the sponsors of the project for the work well done and promised to present it to her colleagues for consideration and passage.
Meanwhile, District Justice Ify Okoye (a physically challenged legal luminary) has inaugurated 12 engagement officers at the state level to effectively monitor the projects.