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Monday, January 30, 2023

COVID-19: “NBSSI application process not friendly to persons with disabilities”- GFD

Disrupted, pained, anguished, and sour–that’s how many described the year 2020. It was the year many activities were halted. Businesses, education, and social gatherings all folded up with the speed of  the spark of lighting due to the outbreak of the Corona virus late November 2019. People lost their breadwinners, parents, friends and loved ones when the pandemic began to take a toll on lives.

Ghana by the sixth of June 2021 had recorded 94,188 cases with 786 deaths. Over million citizens out of the thirty million population who fall under the first category; termed as front liners  have been inoculated in the second phase of the vaccination campaign,  the Ghana Health Service said in a media briefing.

COVID-19 Stimulus Package and the Disability Federation.

Nearly 3 per cent of the total population of the West African country are disabled according to the World Health Organization.  Researchers Naami and Mfoafo-M’Carthy in exploring the vulnerabilities of persons with disabilities during COVID-19 in Ghana, for the African Journal of Social Work notes: that many disabled persons work in vulnerable employment, characterised by low income, lack of job security and job-related benefits.

They report that both categories of workers with disabilities are more likely to lose their jobs in this COVID-19 era, which could further worsen their income and savings and their economic resilience. Summarizing their report, they note that: the Ghana government COVID-19 response strategy, unfortunately, does not specifically address the needs of persons with disabilities.

This has been corroborated by the COVID-19 Project Officer of the Ghana Federation of Disability organizations, Christopher Agbegah who explains that the application process for the business recovery programme is not disability friendly and has been nothing but hectic.

The Recovery Programme.

The Government of Ghana in 2020 rolled out social interventions in order to cushion citizens in the onset of the virus. President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at the launch of the programme said “the scheme will roll out a soft loan scheme up to GH¢600 million, which will have a one-year moratorium and two-year repayment period for micro, small and medium scale businesses.”

It is being spearheaded by the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI), Business & Trade Associations and selected Commercial and Rural Banks across the country. The Executive Director of NBSSI, Mrs. Kosi Yankey-Ayeh stated that, more than 200,000 businesses would be supported under the stimulus package for SMEs adding that the NBSSI was further engaging traders and business owners to sensitise them on the package and how they could access it.

Ghana’s SMEs sector, according to a University of Ghana study in 2015, contribute about 70 per cent to Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and account for about 92 per cent of businesses in the country.

In September 2020, few months after implementation had begun, Mrs. Kosi Yankey-Ayeh told the Ghanaian media that; “more than 200,000 medium, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) have received their share of the special fund set up to cushion small and medium-scale businesses from the impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).”

Concerns by Ghana Federations of Disability Organizations.

The COVID-19 Project Officer of the Ghana Federations of Disability Organisations, Christopher Agbega said many of their members were not able to meet the application deadline due to the cumbersome process.

Their membership made of nine groups- The Ghana Blind Union, Mental Health Society, Ghana National Association of the Deaf, Ghana Association of Persons with Albinism, Ghana Stammering Association, Inclusion Ghana, Sharecare Ghana, Burnt Survivors Association and the Ghana Society of the Physically Disabled say; they have always been an “afterthought” by successive governments.

He said specially for persons with visual impairment, the NBSSI website does not have the feature that allows them to apply without assistance and that has been a big challenge.

The Federation brought this to the attention of the NBBSI, Mr. Agbegah said but the registration was already underway “so much could not be done to rectify it so we gave the suggestion that going forward, this should be taken into consideration.”

“We spoke to NBBSI about our members who have applied through the Ghana Federation of Disability Organisations. We met our colleagues and was able to submit the list to NBSSI, totaling over 350 people”, Mr. Agbega revealed.

He was quick to add that because “not all disabled persons applied through the GFP, so they are unable to tell how many PWDs have gotten the loans specifically, but steps are underway to collate the data.”

“A lot more people had to reach out to the Federation after the application duration had elapsed thereby leaving them behind without an assistance”, Mr. Agbegah added.

Ghana raised some GHC 600 million according to the Finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta.

Article 39 of ACT 715 of the Persons with Disability Act, 2006  of Ghana states that “A person or institution which organises a national, regional or district activity, shall as far as practicable ensure that facilities are made available for the participation in the activity by persons with disability.”

In order to ensure inclusiveness, Mr. Agbegah said relevant state agencies should intensify consultations among the federation to identify robust strategies that will cover all facets of the society.

“We are not after thought”, he says, drumming home the message for continuous involvement of all persons within the society for any social intervention programme by the government.

Until then, their desire for persons with disability to be accorded attention due to their disabilities will remain a dream.

This report is supported by Journalists for Human Rights under the Mobilizing Media to Fighting COVID-19.



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