People living with disabilities (PWD) may soon find themselves with nowhere to go for help unless government reconsiders its funding cuts for disability charities.
NGOs providing services for people living with disabilities are among the biggest losers following government’s frantic spending cuts in a bid to contain costs.
Disability charities say the funding cut is threatening provisions of services aimed at opening up life chances and opportunities for people living with disabilities. The situation is not helped by international donors’ decision to pull out of Botswana because the country is classified as a middle income country.
A press conference held last Tuesday addressed by disability charities and the Botswana Council for the Disabled painted a bleak future for people living with disabilities.
“The cutting of funds by the government will affect the disabled negatively. This could also see some volunteering centers looking after people with disabilities closing down due to difficult financial challenges,” said Salani Rapoo, a coordinator of Motswedi Rehabilitation Centre, a PWD service provider in Mochudi. Rapoo revealed this when interviewed from the sidelines of BCD press conference.
Rapoo said some of their workers are foreigners, citing three physiotherapists “and the government cuts on funds could see some going for greener pastures”.
She said as the government has cut on funding maintenance and insurance of buildings that house disabled and the overall quality of life of the disabled could be compromised.
Rapoo said it will not be easy to be reconstructed after heavy storms. She said it is difficult to take care of disabled children as most of them are from less privileged families. Rapoo also said fuel fare was also cut by the government and their transport could only sustain the petrol for only three months.
The government is also not providing capital development grants for service providers to expand their services such as extending hostels to increase accommodation and create opportunities for disabled people who are still outside the care system. These NGOs raise their own funds to build their infrastructure and expand their facilities.
BCD Chairman, Revered Moses Kandovazu, asked stakeholders to stay in hope as BCD negotiations with government to fund NGOs again are ongoing.
“Negotiations to re-instate all or at least most of the cost that were cut are ongoing because should that situation be allowed to persist we are bound to see most of our professionals leave the Centers for greener pastures,” Kandovazu told reports and service providers.
The other challenge that is faced by BCD and their partners is lack of skilled personnel. Kandovazu said there are special services for the physically impaired, multiple disabilities and visually impaired. He said these services require professionals whose training is not available in Botswana. Such specialists come at great cost.
Kandovazu said physiotherapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists and orthopedic technologists are trained outside this country and it is hard to retain them because they cannot pay competitive salaries.
Kandovazu also said there is a concern of access and opportunity for people with disabilities. He said children who are intellectually impaired, particularly those who are moderately and severely hyperactive either by birth trauma, head injuries or any trauma to the head, are not catered for.
The BCD chairman said the solution can be extension of hostels. Unfortunately, the government cannot provide capital development grants to construct more buildings.