Monrovia – A local Italian NGO, the Italian Association Friends of Raoul Follereau (AIFO) Disability and Start-Up Project (DASU) over the weekend launched an economic survey report in the country.
The DASU project is a program component of AIFO that is aimed at improving the livelihood of persons living with disabilities in the country.
The DASU Project is a three-year scheme funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation that started May 2, 2018 and expected to end May 1, 2021, with a total cost of US$1.4 million.
Meanwhile, the survey report is the outcome of a research investigation conducted by the Department of Economics and Management of the University of Florence in partnership with a Liberian researcher, Jacob Jallah.
The report investigates the economic challenges confronting persons living with disabilities in Nimba, Grand Gedeh, Bong and Montserrado Counties.
The survey revealed that there is no focus or a strict connection between persons living with disabilities and the social economy.
Give the overview of the launch, the Media Director of AIFO-Liberia; Luther S. Mendi said the overall objective of AIFO-Liberia DASU Project is to reinforce the role of disable people organizations in the social economic development processes.
“We focus on economic empowerment; we focus on how to build the capacity of persons living with disability to promote their own rights”
Mendi continues: “We want to ensure active participation of the national umbrella of persons living with disability, NUOD and nine DPOs institutions that we are working with in policy making and human right approaches.
Also speaking at the launch, AIFO-Liberia Country Director, Silvia Poggioli reiterated the objective of the DASU Project is to improve economic independence of people living with disabilities.
She said AIFO has been working with people with disabilities in Liberia since 2010 on economic empowerment.
“In 2017 the staff of AIFO realizedfeasibility study, where it became very clear that economic independent was a key objective in the lives of people living with disabilities because it bring them an opportunity, and not only in social life but in political life as well,” Madam Poggioli said.
At the same time, the Executive Director of the National Commission on Disability, Ricardia Badio Dennis said one of the challenges confronting the disable community is the mind of people towards them.
“One of the things that we see concerning the lives of persons living with disabilities is that the mind set of people towards them; where people believed they are not able, they are not capable of becoming, of doing, she said.
She added that the lives of persons living with disabilities are not given priority by government.
We committed ourselves as a government but when it comes to the role we have to play as a government, sometimes and most especially, concerning the lives of persons living with disabilities are down play”
“If you look at the budget that even concerns the commission (National Commission on Disabilities), is less than USD$250,000., the entire country for persons living with disabilities. Yet, we are looking up to partners to complement the work of government but government also have to ensure that she puts a bit of money there to do some work”.
Director Dennis blamed the government for the poor living condition of persons living with disabilities.
“Various components, various actors in the government are responsible for certain aspects of the lives of persons living with disabilities,” she explained.
She promised to work AIFO-Liberia implement the DASU Project survey report to affect the lives of the disable community.
“We will work along with you as we are working with other partners to ensure that the lives of persons living with disabilities are improved,” she added.
For her part, the President of the National Union of Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (NUOD), Naomi B. Harris said people living with disabilities have been left out in every sectors of the country.
She added that people living with disabilities are been looked down upon and are no longer seen as people of substance.
“We have been left out. We are not been seen as anyone. This study, we really need people to support, it is very important for us. The key things that are in this report are along with us. We were not left out of the process, we were in the process. So, we urged you to join us in this report so that the realities that come up, someone life can be touched,” Madam Harris said.
Martha Tokpah is a disable mother of five children. She lost her parents at an early age in the 1980s. She became disabled when she lost her fought against Leprosy.
She travelled from Nimba County to Montserrado County to witness the launch of the survey report.
Narrating her story, Martha says she almost committed suicide due to her poor living condition.
“I decided that no reason for me to live because of the condition I found myself in. some people had their parents who were counseling them but I never had someone so I decided to killed myself,” Madam Tokpah explained.
“With the help of a doctor, I started getting use to my condition. NGOs been coming in our town but the NGO that my eye opens on is AIFO. It’s AIFO that really came to our aid, put us together and trained us how to make soap, and other things. They also gave us funds to start our businesses. Those who never had time for us started coming to our houses to buy our products.”