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Elderly fund hangs in balance as donors halt funding

MBALE- Elders benefitting from government’s Social Assistance Grant for Empowerment [SAGE] across the country face a bleak future after donors temporarily suspended support to the programme over government’s failure to fulfill its obligations in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The revelation came as most of the elderly, who have been receiving Shs25,000 monthly stipend under the programme, have not been paid for nearly six months.

SAGE communication officer Joseph Basoga confirmed the revelations but said soon the government will release the funds.

“The donors had written to government to delay the implementation of the next phase to allow them [donors] re-appraise the agreement and as well to urge government fulfill its obligations as per the MoU. But efforts are being made to see that the funds are released and elderly are totally paid,” Mr Basoga said.

Under the MoU, government is supposed to contribute Shs149b, then the UK’s Department for International Development contributes 57million pounds [about Shs254.3b] and the Irish Aid 12million Euros [about Shs45.6b], bringing it to Shs448.9b for five years.

However, it has emerged that the Ministry of Labour, Gender and Social Development, the implementers and supervisors of the programme, only received a quarter of the funds last year.

And a letter from the donors to government indicates that they halted the approval of the 2nd phase of funding due to the latter’s failure to fulfill its commitment as stated in the MoU.

 “As a result, we propose to delay the movement of the programme to full implementation phase in order to give us time to reappraise the agreement that we have with the government,” reads in part the letter signed by THE head of Britain’s Department for International Development, Mr Jennie Barugh, and the Irish Ambassador, Mr Donl Cronin

SAGE is meant to cater for the elderly persons from the age of 65 years and above. The initial Shs122b pilot scheme started from 2011 to 2015 and covered 15 districts with 10,000 beneficiaries and by that time each was earning Shs23,000 per month. But under the current programme, 43 districts are benefitting, with 148,000 beneficiaries earning Shs25.000 per month.

The advocacy and policy coordinator in the ministry of Gender, Ms Beatrice Okillan, said by 2020, the coverage will have reached 55 districts, targeting 226,000 beneficiaries.

Mr Cronin pledged more support to scale down on the high levels of poverty amongst the elder persons and ensure that the beneficiaries do not fall back into poverty.

“We urge the government to prioritise the SAGE programme in the National Budget. This is a justifiable issue that need concerted efforts from both the government and development partners,” he said, add.

The grant caters mostly the vulnerable elderly without any any form of income.

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