This year they said they were on their own. They expressed disappointment over what they described as neglect by the government and disability commission, claiming that much had not been done to address their problems.
In October 2016 a random sampling of views among 30 disabled persons, who live by begging on the streets of central Freetown, showed that people no longer give them money. They felt that something should therefore be done by the commission responsible for disabled people to look into their situation.
“People no longer give us money, food and clothes and we are beggars. Now some of them feel we are trouble makers,” one of them said.
When we asked passers-by, who would normally give hand-outs to beggars on the streets, some of them said they could only afford to give out Le1,000 or Le2,000 out of pity or just as charity because of the present economic situation in the country.
Nana Conteh, a disabled woman, said when people saw her with her children and grandchildren they just refused to help.
“They have no sympathy for beggars and that is why whenever I go out to beg in the street, shop owners and other people like passers-by will abuse and chase us away,” she claimed, adding that such treatment had made her feel very bad.
She also expressed disgust at people who visited them, took pictures and made promises of coming back to help them with food and accommodation and they had never returned to fulfil their promises.
Abass Koroma another disabled, who sells confectionary at Ecowas Street, said: “Most of us have never received any help from any agency and have neither been invited to any session for the disabled nor have we know the national commissioner for persons with disability”.
The commissioner, Fredrick Kamara, said they were merely set up to look into the welfare of persons with disability and that they solely depended on the government to run the commission.
“We are not responsible to go out and give hand-outs to disabled people in the street, rather we will be embarking on a survey to know the number of disabled people that are out there”, he said, adding that there was no credible data since the last survey was done 31 years ago between.
He said the rebel war, between 1991 and 2001, also caused the number of disabled people to increase so there should be a headcount to know where they were in terms of empowerment needs.
He said they would need skills training to be able to make and earn their own living and to be trained in income generation activities if they were to get back their dignity and become productive members of society.
He added that they were constrained by limited staff to take up some of the responsibilities like outreach, but thanked government for the help and support so far while pleading for staff and resources.
UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities
Since 1992, the United Nations International Day of Persons with Disabilities has been celebrated annually on 3 December around the world.
The theme for this year’s International Day is “Achieving 17 Goals for the Future We Want”. This theme notes the recent adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, and the role of these goals in building a more inclusive and equitable world for persons with disabilities.
This year’s objectives include assessing the current status of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and SDGs and laying the foundation for a future of greater inclusion for persons with disabilities.
How to commemorate IDPD 2016
Observance of the Day provides opportunities for collaborative and inclusive events by all stakeholders – Governments, the UN system, civil society and organizations of persons with disabilities – to focus on issues related to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in society and development, both as beneficiaries and agents of change.
Hold forums, public discussions and information campaigns in support of the themes of IDPD 2015 to discuss and share ways of including and empowering persons of all abilities to develop and be fully included in their local communities.
Plan and organize performances everywhere to celebrate the contributions made by persons with disabilities as agents of change in the communities in which they live. Celebrate persons with disabilities by creating opportunities to help realize their potential, be it through music, sport, academia or interpersonal skills.
A major focus of the Day is practical action to realize the objectives of the Day for persons with disabilities and their communities. So, highlight best practices and think about making recommendations to your local political leaders, businesses, academic institutions, cultural centres and others. Work to ensure that your activity leaves a legacy and brings about lasting change.