Embrace immunisation to curb disability – Museveni

Gender minister Betty Amongi (second left) and other leaders talk to a man with disability during the International Day of PWDs celebrations at Rutooma SS in Mbarara District on Sunday. PHOTO/RAJAB MUKOMBOZI

What you need to know:

The International Day of PWDs was celebrated under the theme “The role of innovations in disability inclusion”.

President Museveni has challenged Ugandans to embrace immunisation to reduce cases of disability in the country.

The President made the remarks on Sunday in a message read for him by the Minister for Gender, Ms Betty Amongi, during the national celebrations to mark the International Day for People with Disabilities (PWDs) held at Rutooma Secondary School grounds in Bwizibwera-Rutooma Town Council in Mbarara District.

“When we talk about disability, we should start with the question of health. The policy of government on immunisation is very crucial in preventing some of the disabilities that some of you have, which could have been prevented if you had accessed immunisation. Please mothers, make sure that you continue to embrace immunisation then we can talk about other disabilities that cannot be prevented through immunisation,” Mr  Museveni said.  He also noted the need to have cheap and affordable assistive devices for PWDs.

“Assistive devices also remain a big challenge to people with disabilities in our community. I have directed the Ministry of Gender to work with the Ministry of Health and other entities so that we can produce assistive devices that are cheap and affordable,” he said.

In her remarks, Minister Amongi added that assistive devices remain expensive, citing an example a wheelchair, which she said costs between Shs600,000 and Shs2.6 million.

At the function, leaders of PWDs said despite the country having enabling laws and policies for the disability movement, they remain marginalised.

“Parliament has passed so many laws and policies on disability movement but they are not implemented. We cannot continue to waste time passing laws that are never implemented. Today’s theme talks about technology and innovations but this technology and innovations have not helped us.  The environment we are living in has disabled us,”  Ms Laura Kanushu, the MP for PWDs, said.

Ms Joyce Achan, another MP, said the budget for the PWDs is too thin to enable them engage in viable economic activities.

“I request the government and the Ministry of Gender to revise our grant from Shs16 billion to at least Shs60 billion. This can enable each group to at least get Shs5 billion and engage in meaningful income generating activities,” she said.

She added that the PWDs are being discriminated against on some of the government programmes such as Parish Development Model (PDM).

“In some districts, leaders have refused PWDs from accessing government programmes such as PDM, even when we have a vote clearly stipulated in the guidelines. We are warning such people that enough is enough and we are coming for them,” she said.

Ms Flavia Kabahenda, the Woman Member of Parliament for Kyegegwa District, who is also the chairperson of the parliamentary Committee on Gender, Labour and Social Development, said most of the PWDs centres in the country remain wanting.

“Children there lack food and the living conditions are so poor. For example, we are told that at the only rehabilitation centre the western region has in Ruti, Mbarara City, children are always sent home and recalled for lack of food. This is traumatising and has to stop,” she said.

Mr Yona Wasswa, the chairperson of the National Council for PWDs, said one  of the challenges they face is limited funding and that most innovations and technologies don’t respond to the needs of PWDs. “Government should make sure that all innovations are accessible to PWDs such as assistive devices but also the disability council remains the least funded under the Ministry of Gender,”  he said.

Govt priorities

Minister Amongi assured the PWDs that their challenges remain a priority on the government agenda and will be addressed.

    ‘‘The Prime Minister has made a commitment and instructed me to put together all the challenges faced by PWDs and that she will engage all government entities and Parliament to see them addressed,” she said.

     At the same function, the government launched the National Action Plan on Disabilities that seeks to address challenges faced by PWDs.