By John Odyek and Paul Kiwuuwa
The Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Social Protection has asked government to spread out the payment of funds to persons aged 65 years in the country and above so that all benefit from the social protection funds.
Flavia Kabahenda, chairperson of the forum said Wednesday that there are over 1.3m persons aged 65 years and above but only a handful in a few districts were getting the social protection funds.
Kabahenda said only 105,000 elderly persons are getting the sh25,000 given by government under the National Social Protection Policy. This was during a press conference held at Parliament in Kampala to address the challenges faced by the elderly persons and programs put in place to address them.
“We want a national roll out so that all elder persons can benefit from this money. Only 14 districts out of 112 districts are benefitting which is a small number. This money is spent on health care, building houses and supporting the elderly people,” Kabahenda also Kyegegwa Woman MP said.
Kabahenda explained that in July 2010 the ministry of gender, labour and social development begun a pilot Senior Citizen Grant Scheme as part of the wider social protection programme under which the money is being paid out.
Studies show that over 30% of older persons live in extreme poverty, are socially excluded and many are burdened, looking after orphans and vulnerable children.
She said over the past three years the scheme has remained in 14 districts including Amudat, Napak, Nakapiripi, Kole, Apac, Kyegerwa, Kaberamaido, Nebbi, Moroto, Katakwi, Kiboga, Kyenjojo, Zombo.
“The project targets elder people aged 65 years and above except in Karamoja where the age eligibility is 60 years. The Vulnerable Family Grant targets households with extremely low labour capacity who receive a monthly payment of sh25,000 through MTN Uganda mobile money services. Kabahenda said they hope with time the scheme would weed out elders getting pension and getting other benefits.
State minister for fisheries Ruth Nankabirwa who is also the Kiboga woman MP said: “I oppose that every elder who has clocked 65 years should benefit from the project because government cannot not have enough money to cater for all. It should benefit only the poor and vulnerable who can’t afford to get essentials but not the rich ones.”
Nankabirwa added that though the money is little it has helped the elders to buy essential commodities like salt, sugar, kerosene, food and medicines.
Jacob Opolot Palisa county MP who is also the treasurer of the forum said: “Some of the beneficiaries of the money had formed SACCOS that have helped them to build low cost houses.”
Keneth Obote Kalaki county MP and member of the forum said: “Although President Yoweri Museveni recently pledged that government will take responsibility for health, economic and social needs to people who have at reached 100 years. The age should be reduced to 70 years because few Ugandans can make it to 100 years”.
Museveni recently promised that the needs of people who reach 100 years would be met during the burial of the late Rwot Anania Akera Bobi chief in Acholi district who died at 100 years early this month.