Yesterday I had the opportunity to travel to the seat of the District Government and participate in a meeting with several key Ugandan local and national government officials. I traveled with several representatives of the GDPU and also the Country Program Coordinator for Survivor Corps Uganda, John Francis Onyango. We sat with the District Speaker, the Chairmen of the District Social Services and the District Public Works committees, a Member of the National Parliament, and several other representatives.
The goal of the meeting was to express how important it is to consider persons living with disabilities when creating and finalizing a government budget. In Uganda about 12% of the population is living with a disability. Surprisingly, this is lower than both the United States (19%) and Europe as a whole (15%). There are more than 600 million people worldwide living with disabilities, and that number is expected to increase dramatically over the coming decades. Expanding by as much as 39% in the developed world and 46% in the developing world.* Because there is such a strong link between poverty and disability, any country which wants to effectively manage development and reduce poverty must address the needs of persons living with disabilities also.
The meeting was a large one, with about 20 representatives present, and there were several different viewpoints. Some were enthusiastic and in complete accord, some were apologetic and explained that there simply wasn’t enough funding to change anything. Some were evasive and tried to deflect this issue off to other NGOs. It was interesting to watch the process, because these people are the ones who ultimately hold the power to effect real change and real progress in Uganda as it rehabilitates itself after the war. Admittedly, funds are limited. However the Member of the National Parliament, Betty Aol, make the best point of the day when she said “It’s not about the resources, it’s about how you use the resources.” This is a wonderful mentality, and one that will go a long way in Africa. There will never be enough money to do everything that you want, whether you live in Africa or America or Australia.
The meeting was fairly successful, and the District Public Works committee made a commitment to ensure that all new construction projects will have provisions for accessibility for PWDs. This is important, but must also be combined with the rehabilitation and readjustment of existing buildings to meet the needs of PWDs also. The GDPU will be following up and encouraging the government to take larger steps towards providing for all of its citizens. After such a brutal war, with so many lives and livelihoods lost, Uganda is in a unique position to rehabilitate not only its infrastructure, but also its people. Let’s hope that those with influence realize that you can’t do one without the other.
*Making Development Inclusive: Project Cycle Management Guidelines for European Community 2008
Posted By Bryan Lupton
Posted Jun 24th, 2009