BY IRWIN ANGIKI
Government is not keeping track of the country’s persons with disability community in its vaccination drive.
This concern was raised during a four-day workshop in Honiara (from June 1-4) by participants living with disability.
Lack of available government data is another worrying factor.
The ministry of health and medical services (MHMS), which looks after people with disability (PWD) through its community-based rehabilitation (CBR) division, has not responded when sought for comments since last week via MHMS Media.
Dr Divinal Ogaoga, chairman to the MHMS covid-19 technical working group (TWG), was unsure when asked during the workshop of how many people with disability had been vaccinated since government began its vaccination roll-out in March this year.
A MHMS personnel attending the workshop was also unable to provide an answer.
To date, workers and members of the People With Disability Solomon Islands (PWDSI), the umbrella organisation for the country’s PWD community, are yet to be vaccinated. The same with other affiliated groups. This was revealed during the workshop.
This was in spite of government’s vaccination roll-out having run since March 24 this year, three months on.
Mr Ogaoga, presenting in the last day of the workshop (Friday, June 4) had reassured the PWD participants that a day could be set aside the following week for them to get vaccinated at the central field hospital.
Ogaoga urged PWDSI team to invite other PWD who were not at the workshop and are eligible.
Ms Naomi Tai, administration officer of PWDSI, speaking to the paper yesterday, confirmed there has been no vaccination for them since.
A workshop participant living with disability, who requested anonymity, had described government as having ‘no urgency or duty of care’ for the country’s PWD community.
“Any so-called support claimed by government given to us is yet to be felt, for we don’t receive it. The only support we have seen and felt are from NGOs and donors from overseas such as UNDP, Oxfam, and civil society organisations (CSOs).”
Regarding government’s current vaccination drive, the participant says: “We feel that we are an after-thought in government’s vaccination roll-out, despite government having announced publicly that people with disabilities are among the most vulnerable and should be among the first to be vaccinated.”
This gap was underscored early this year by Governor General Sir David Vunagi in his New Year’s National Address when he said persons with disability are “often forgotten”.
“[A] group of people always given little attention are the people with disabilities.
“We do not have a reliable data about this group but I feel that if gender and quality calls for attention from the government, churches, NGOs and has the family protection Act to advance the importance of respecting the rights of women and girls so must the people with disabilities.
“Every citizen should advocate for the rights and benefits of people with disabilities. They exist silently among us and the communities and they make no claims and demand for recognition.
“As a Christian country, how they live among us should be enough for us to recognise and advocate for them,” he said.
The workshop was held in Honiara from Tuesday, June 1, to Friday, June 4. It was run by the UNDP in partnership with PWDSI and Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs through the Public Solicitor’s Office.