January 27, 2004

The poor are getting more powerless, says Minister



The poor were getting more powerless in the face of threats facing them, community development minister Marina Nsingo has lamented. In a speech at the launch of the Public Welfare Assistance Scheme (PWAS) booklet and the results of the National Household Survey (NHS), Nsingo called for concerted efforts in alleviating the suffering of the vulnerable. Nsingo noted the importance of information in addressing development as it facilitated adequate planning. As Nsingo has put it the PWAS had undergone various changes since its establishment as a social safety net for world war veterans in the 1950s to its current decentralised status. She noted that despite its transformation, PWAS had been over-dependent on central government, which necessitated the redesigning exercise launched in 1997. "The decentralisation of the early 1990s overlooked a lot of issues such as the need for partnership and community participation, which are very critical in ensuring sustainability in the face of the growing population, declining economy and increasing insecurity and vulnerability," Nsingo said. "Many problems affecting households today such as HIV/AIDS, child labour and others are exacerbated by the forces of globalisation."
She explained that under the redesigned system, communities would be in charge of the process of supporting the vulnerable while the government would be a facilitator. Nsingo noted that the NHS "provided factual and reliable statistics on destitute persons at household level with regards to levels of vulnerability and the magnitude of demand which PWAS in turn could use as a basis of its targeting". The NHS was conducted between August and September last year to assess the welfare needs of families. It covered 18 districts and involved 53.290 households out of which 10.170 were found eligible for social welfare assistance. And out of the 10.170 households, 5.604 were identified as incapacitated and in dire need of social welfare support. (The Post, Lusaka)

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