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Over 15 years of sleeping rough…

Homeless disabled accuse government of neglect

February 3, 2016 By Joseph S. Margai

Despite efforts by the government to improve the standard of living of persons with disability following the establishment of the National Commission for Persons with Disability (NCPD), courtesy of the Disability Act of 2011, many disabled persons remain homeless and lack basic medical care.

Memunatu Conteh, a disabled woman with five children, told Concord Times in the early hours of Monday at Wilberforce Street, central Freetown that they have been sleeping on the street for over 15 years now as some landlords refuse to have them as tenants on the pretext that disabled persons are unclean.

She said 35 of them sleep outside one of many shops along Wilberforce Street, adding that some nights all the money they gather from begging on the streets during the day is stolen by hoodlums and thieves. She said that during the raining season, they cover with plastics to protect themselves from the rains.

“We pay Le2,000 for a five-gallon container of water and Le1,000 to use the public toilet here. We keep our belongings to other disabled colleagues who sleep along ECOWAS Street,” she disclosed.

She further told Concord Times that when people take their children from them in the name of rendering them assistance, they never see them again.

Part V, Section 17 of the Persons with Disability Act of 2011 states that every person with disability shall be provided with free medical services in public health institutions.

But Memunatu said she recently paid the sum of Le200,000 to be treated for cold at the Connaught Hospital in Freetown, claiming that she had been asked to pay Le400,000 for stomach ache operation at the same hospital.

“Whenever we go to the NCPD (National Commission for Persons with Disability), the chief commissioner would shout at us and ask us out of his sight,” she alleged. “Minister of Social Welfare, Moijueh Kaikai, would always laugh at us and tell us to go back to our villages and make farms. How can we make farms when we are disabled?”

Sallay Bangura, a mother of three, said they pay Le10,000 to commute between Freetown and Waterloo with their wheelchairs as early as 3:00am, claiming that drivers of government buses would not allow them to aboard the buses.

Sahr Kallan Davoyah, Programme Manager at the NCPD, said they are aware of the homelessness of the disabled but no responsibility is placed on the commission to provide housing for them.

“If NaCSA, NASSIT and other organisations are constructing houses, we will lobby with them so that houses can be constructed for disabled to access them,” he said. “We also work with many organisations so as to improve on the wellbeing of disabled persons.”

The NCPD programme manager, however, refuted claims that they have been asking disabled persons out of the commission’s premises.

He said they are very much concerned about the social impact on children carrying their disabled parents to beg on the streets, as such does not bode well for their future. He revealed that they have conducted an assessment of the impact on children which they have forwarded to the appropriate authorities for action.

Davoyah called on the disabled to bring to the attention of the commission any discriminatory act against them at government hospitals for necessary action to be taken, noting however that the commission lacks enough staff, logistics and finance to carry out their statutory functions.

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