AS 2016 draws to a close, I am particularly pleased to see this year has seen the spotlight focus more on the needs of the disabled in our community and their rights.
I am especially grateful to the Government of Japan for the generous and practical assistance to the Honiara Special Development Centre of the Red Cross Society.
In late November His Excellency the Japanese Ambassador to the Solomon Islands, Kenichi Kimiya, signed a project grant worth SBD$400,000 with the local Red Cross Society (SIRC) to facilitate the SIRC purchasing a new 30 seat bus allowing many students safe transport to the SDC.
Also in November, the British High Commission in the Solomon Islands, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Foundation, flew three teachers to Honiara from the UK in order to pilot human rights education in schools and with a wider aim of impacting the need for human rights in local communities, including the human rights of those persons with disabilities.
Most recently, the Ministry of Health and Medical Services is currently on a mission to make sure people with disability access basic services and facilities they need.
The Director of Planning and Policy at the Ministry of Health and Medical Services Mr Ivan Ghemu, said during the National Health Strategic Plan 2016-2020, held recently, the Ministry will be directing attention to people with disability as a priority and will progress towards the improvement of services for the marginalised population groups, especially people with disabilities.
When delivering his keynote address at the time of launching the National Health Strategic Plan 2016-2020, Mr Ghemu claimed that the setting of the “Honiara City” had failed its citizens who have a disability.
He said facilities such as roads, markets, hospitals, schools, transportation and even government offices have no room for people with disability.
He described this as, “total negligence of inclusive development to accommodate the needed services and facilities for people with disability as far as the Convention of the Right of Person with Disability is concerned.”
I can align, in part, with Mr Ghemu’s views on there being limited access to premises with disability and drew attention to the need for a local bank, at the time under construction, to allow for access to the premises for those using wheel chairs.
It is my understanding the building went ahead without providing a ramp for wheel chair access.
In the last few days, I drew attention in the local media to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the United Nations (UN) for the disabled in terms of education, growth in employment prospects, accessibility and the need for accurate data collection and monitoring of the (essential five) SDGs demanded by the UN.
I re-iterate my call for the DCCG to do everything possible, with the aid of its partners and with help from the UN, to address the needs of persons with disabilities in the Solomon Islands, thus fulfilling the pledge given by the Prime Minister when speaking, recently, as the Guest of Honour at the Bethesda Disability Training and Support Centre’s 15th graduation ceremony.
The Prime Minister said, “In Solomon Islands, we will need concerted efforts between the government and different institutions and organisations to ensure better coordination in paying proper attention to this somewhat neglected section of our population.”
“Disabilities are a complex issue and whatever interventions are planned or designed to overcome their associated disadvantages will invariably be multiple and systematic depending on the context.”
I pay tribute to the work of the San Isidro Centre located at Aruligo outside Honiara, which educates disabled young people from the ages of 14 and over, over a duration of three years in subjects ranging from English, maths, business, sign Language, agriculture, life skills, carpentry, woodwork, and practical trade and skills.
Likewise, much credit is due to the work being undertaken by the HoniaraSpecial Development Centre of the Red Cross Society and the Bethesda Disability Training and Support Centre.
Thank you all for the dedicated care you give and a special word of thanks to the Honiara City Council (HCC), Chung Wah School and the Para Table Tennis Club-PTTC for organization the successful Kalala School International Day of Persons with Disabilities Commemoration held in Honiara last Saturday.
Finally, let me say that the two containers of medical equipment and supplies on the way from New Zealand, in terms of the MOU signed between the NRH (MHMS), Take My Hands Charity Trust (TMH) and myself, will arrive in Honiara on 12 December.
The containers will include mobility aids for those with walking difficulties – 140 pairs of crutches and some wheel chairs.
By FRANK SHORT