Persons with disability constitute 12.4 per cent of Uganda’s population according to the 2014 Housing and Population Census.
In spite of these statistics, and in light of the unequal access to services particularly in education, health care and transportation, among others, poverty and disability in Uganda have remained impossible to disentangle.
An illustration of the inequitable access to services is amplified by disability-specific barriers such as inaccessible infrastructure including buildings in service delivery centers, which is in total contravention of the Building Control Act 2013.
Additionally, the unavailability of assistive devices such as wheelchairs, hearing aids and other auxiliary support tools that enable persons with disability live dignified and sustainable lives continues to impede their access to social services.
Providing equitable services continues to be constrained by limited financing for social sectors whose budgetary allocations continue to decline in comparison to sectors such as security and infrastructure.
For instance, according to the National Budget Framework Paper for the financial year 2018/19, education and health sectors’ proportion of the budget will reduce by four per cent and 0.9 per cent respectively compared to 2017/2018.
The social development and agriculture sector proportions of the budget over the same period will remain constant at 0.8 per cent and 3.8 per cent respectively.
Within the education sector, despite repeated calls for allocating 10 per cent of the education budget to special-needs education, an analysis by Nudipu revealed that the sector has allocated a paltry 0.1 per cent of its funds to special-needs education since FY2014/15.
This financing is too meager to support effective and quality education standards reaching all children with disabilities of school-going age across the country.
This has grossly affected enrollment of persons with disability, reducing from 222,390 in 2009 at the three levels of pre-primary, primary and secondary level to 155,846 as at 2015 as opposed to increasing overall enrollment from 9.6m to 10m learners in the same years.
There have been lauded efforts by the special-needs education department in the ministry of Education and Sports which has distributed assistive devices including Braille cartons, Braille paper and hearing aids to learners. Nonetheless, this support has only been limited to 100 primary schools, reaching only 5,000 learners in FY2016/17.
Likewise, in the health sector, funding for disability has reduced from Shs 144m four years ago to Shs 68m currently. These funds aim at supporting a multitude of activities including provision of wheelchairs and white canes and running of orthopedic workshops across the country, among others.
Albinos continue to be hurdled with absence of special sun cream lotions for protection against skin cancer.
The recall of the Persons with Disability Bill 2014 from parliament poses opportunities and challenges at the same time.
It is an opportunity to ensure all shades of input and voices are considered and processes thereafter fast-tracked to ensure fair and equal treatment of persons with disabilities. The withdrawal, if not fast-tracked, may drag the whole process and may leave a lacuna in the protection of the rights of persons with disability.
Given the dismal financing to disability-related needs and other special needs, there is clearly a great need for the community to step in and support the plight of persons with disabilities in Uganda, government efforts notwithstanding. Achievement of Vision 2040 remains a myth unless we tackles the issues of equitable development.
Nudipu has, therefore, created a campaign aimed at raising Shs 500m to procure an assortment of assistive devices that will benefit more than 1,000 vulnerable individuals with disabilities across the country. This will focus mostly on children of school-going age, among other vulnerable persons with disability.
We, therefore, call upon well-wishers to support this campaign through attending a fundraising dinner on March 21, 2018 at the Kampala Serena hotel.
Tables are being sold ranging from Shs 200,000 to Shs 5m and can be bought from the Kampala Serena hotel and Nudipu offices. The public can also make contributions via mobile money on 0700540179 or deliver these devices at Nudipu offices on Bukoto-Kisaasi road. For more information, call Esther on 0772647648 or Edson on 0704420041.
I, therefore, urge you to contribute towards this just and noble cause.
The author is the executive director, National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda.