The most disadvantaged group in Sierra Leone is the physically challenged. About 1.1% of the population is physically challenged or live with disability. This includes mainly the blind, deaf, polio persons and amputees. The major challenges the physically challenged persons or persons with disability face include limited access to food, shelter, clothing, jobs, education and health care.
They also face the problem of negative public attitude towards them in many instances. Their coping strategies include begging to earn income and sleeping in public places. They are also marginalized in public life.
The aged are another disadvantaged group. In Sierra Leone, where social security is weak, the aged are generally cared for by the children. With a drop in real income and growing hardship, very little is provided for them. They too can be seen on the streets begging for basic survival.
The APC has failed to address the plights of physically challenged persons. Although the last Parliament enacted the Disability Bill, no concrete action was taken by this Government to provide basic services to persons living with disability or even implement the provisions of the Act. To date, the basic structures for implementing the Act are weak. Conditions in major institutions such as the School for the Blind have worsened.
In 2007, the APC inherited from the last SLPP administration, a Social Safety Programme that provided cash assistance to the vulnerable aged. The APC misappropriated the residual funds, politicized the management and abandoned the Programme.
In the New Direction of Brig. (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio, the SLPP will (i) review and implement policies and laws relating to disability (ii) free education for the physically challenged at all levels (pre-school, primary, secondary and tertiary level) (iii) provide free health care for the physically challenged and the aged (iv) increase access of persons living with disability and aged to public housing (v) provide welfare assistance to persons living with disability and the aged (vi) Provide livelihood support to persons living with disability.