The Social Assistance Grant for Empowerment (SAGE) Programme has rolled on more 37,599 beneficiaries in Eastern Uganda.
According to the gender ministry, the beneficiaries in the 11 districts of Butaleja, Budaka, Bududa, Bulambuli, Busia, Kibuku, Manafwa, Namisindwa, Namutumba, Sironko and Tororo are a fraction of 10.5% of the 358,420 programme total beneficiaries after the national rollout.
The national rollout will see more 200,000 new beneficiaries enrolled in the programme.
Although the decision was to start by covering people who are 80 years and above; government plans to gradually bring down the age cap of the beneficiaries to 65 years and 60 for Karamoja, within the next three years.
The Government says SAGE national rollout will lift over 1.2 million older persons and their households out of abject poverty.
In November 2018, the government took a decision to roll out the SAGE programme, to all districts in the country, starting the last financial year.
President Yoweri Museveni launched SAGE national rollout in Mbale on March 8 and this coincided with the International Women's Day national celebrations.
While launching the payments in Butaleja district on Tuesday, the minister of state for gender and culture, Peace Mutuuzo said; "I am, therefore, pleased that payments have finally reached this region, amidst challenges of the COVID 19 pandemic."
She said that SAGE was in line with the Government's commitment to ensure that no Ugandan is left behind.
"Evidence from the pilot of this grant shows that the sh25,000 which older persons receive every month has indeed yielded positive change in their lives and livelihoods," she said.
She added; "They have been able to access medical services, hire labour to work in their gardens, pay school fees for the grandchildren, some have even been able to start up small businesses and other, saving schemes."
She disclosed that all the allocated budget of sh62.88b for the last financial year was released by the finance ministry. Government has already allocated sh107 b for the SAGE Programme.
"As the ministry, we will work towards ensuring that all this money is released timely by the finance ministry so that we are able to continue to deliver this grant to older persons," she said.
The beneficiaries are being paid a lump sum of sh150,000 for the months of January to June.
The Government had planned to pay the older persons in March but was interrupted by the COVID-19 spread into the country.
The Butaleja LC5 chairperson, Richard Waya, appealed to the government to quickly work on reducing the age of the beneficiaries from 80 to at least 70 years.
He said because of very many older persons who are living in abject poverty in Eastern Uganda, SAGE would do a great job in addressing their welfare needs.
"We appeal to the government to consider lowering the age of beneficiaries to 70 years because this region is one of the poorest in the country and our elderly needs support," he said.
The Butaleja Resident District Commissioner (RDC), Jimmy Ssegawa Ebil, said the 3224 older persons in the district have waited for the programme for long.
"It will go a long way in addressing the basic needs of the older persons in the district," he said.
Joyce Nandede age 87, after receiving his payment presided over by the minister commended the government for the money saying it will help her in hiring labour to work in her gardens.
"I grow maize, cassava, groundnuts, potatoes and beans and this money will help me to hire people to work in my gardens," she said.
Saul Wanghoma aged 80 from Hisega village in Butaleja town council said he had waited for the money for so long and that he will utilize it in meeting his basic needs such as buying sugar.