COVID-19 RESPONSE

Use Huduma Namba, census data to reach Kenyans with disabilities

Parameters such as the poverty index and geographical distribution, weighted against population density, can be used to disburse funds

In Summary

• It’s thus important to ring-fence some funds for PWDs out of the Sh10 billion set aside for the vulnerable.

• Out of the Sh10 billion, Sh2.5 billion can be set aside for them.

MPs Danita Gati, Tim Wanyonyi and David ole Sankok join Kenyans at the Kencom stage in advocating inclusive public transport on May 16, 2019
MPs Danita Gati, Tim Wanyonyi and David ole Sankok join Kenyans at the Kencom stage in advocating inclusive public transport on May 16, 2019
Image: FILE

I have been visiting many persons with disabilities in their homes and localities within the Nairobi metropolitan area to check on them during this difficult period.

Most of them are living in deplorable conditions and their situations are in dire need.

Take for example Nelly Waithira, who is blind and has no one to fully take care of her, despite her advanced age.

Meet Waruiru and her daughter, Wangui, both mentally disabled and leaving alone. I found the latter splitting firewood to boil water for ugali, but their unga was running out.

One Nandutu was living in Nyeri but had to relocate to a slum in Ruiru to look for a job. Unfortunately, she can’t find a kibarua since people are largely indoors.

Wangui has twins, one of them with autism and has to lock him up so that she can go for koroga (construction work) since the government cash transfer hasn’t been sent to her for months now.

These are the stories of Kenyans with disabilities and their families who are going through very hard times during this Covid-9 pandemic. Many of them are sleeping hungry, despite the government putting a raft of measures to cushion Kenyans from the ravages of coronavirus.

To begin with, teachers with disabilities were taxed in March, despite them being exempted from PAYE, as per the provisions of the Persons With Disabilities Act. It provides for exemption of up to Sh150,000 for them to use the funds to cater for disability related costs.

Due to the government directive that PAYE be lowered from 30 to 25 per cent, this means they should have an extra five per cent exemption over and above the traditional 30 per cent, yet the opposite is currently obtaining. Many teachers have found themselves with zero salary due to this arbitrary decision by the Teachers Service Commission.

In addition, the special schools, both primary and secondary, haven’t received their capitation for the first term, leading to most of them almost grinding to a halt.

The key challenge here is the inflation of pupils’ enrollment numbers by headteachers. This is totally unacceptable as corrupt individuals seek to benefit from monies meant for children with special needs.

Further, we have seen images of a deaf man, Zachariah Maende, brutally attacked by a policeman, Josephat Kombo, on his way home in Mumias at around 6:30pm. Incidences of abuse against persons with albinism being called ‘corona’ due to the misperception that this is a white man’s disease have been rampant and reported to the Albinism Society of Kenya. This is especially so at bus parks and other public places. In addition, Chepkoech Kigen, a woman with a disability, was beaten up by Jeremiah Muge, a rogue village chief, who went ahead to pour chang’aa on her, further proof of the endemic discrimination of PWDs in society.

Many PWDs survive on small businesses, such as Kinyanjui, who I met in Thogoto selling vegetables but with no customers to serve. They need lots of sanitisers since they can’t avoid keeping social distancing, as they are always in need of assistance. Take for example a blind person who needs to be guided around, or a wheelchair user who needs to go to the shop.

It’s thus important to ring-fence some funds for PWDs out of the Sh10 billion set aside for the vulnerable. The chiefs haven’t been very receptive to PWDs as incidences of them being turned away have been widely reported. This is due to nepotism that usually characterises such exercises.

To avoid such scenarios — whereby funds go to the unintended beneficiaries —the government needs to use its available data to reach out to the most vulnerable amongst PWDs. Out of the Sh10 billion, Sh2.5 billion can be set aside for them.

According to the 2019 KNBS census, Kenya has 918,000 PWDs, whiles the National Council for Persons With Disabilities has registered about 600,000 persons. This is the agency that is charged with implementing govt programmes relating to PWDs nationwide.

It is thus possible to arrive at a figure of about 200,000 beneficiary households using elimination criteria of the salaried in public and private sectors, and those already in the cash transfer programme, since they already have Sh483 million for them in arrears and therefore should be catered for accordingly.

Parameters such as the poverty index and geographical distribution, weighted against population density, can be used to disburse funds through the mobile money platforms to give Sh1,000 to each of the identified households for 12 weeks at a cost of Sh2.4 billion. The remainder can be factored in for logistics, including providing for Covid-19 education for PWDs.

We haven’t seen any advert in the media targeting them, including showing them how to keep clean, including those who don’t have hands. This is the era of big data analytics.

We spent billions getting Huduma Namba and conducting 2019 census. Let's use that data to improve service delivery to the citizenry.