By Theresa Goodwin
The president of the local Association for Persons with Disabilities (ABAPD) said while he welcomes the government’s promise to assist disabled residents affected by the recent heavy rains, he will withhold the celebration until such intent materialises.
“We have heard many, many beautiful songs about help for the disabled in Antigua and Barbuda and we are yet to truly see the benefit,” Bernard Warner told Observer yesterday,
For several years the association has lobbied on behalf of the disabled population for better housing and financial assistance.
The calls for improved housing were amplified by this week’s downpours when the homes of many who are unable to move about on their own were severely flooded.
Warner said the association is still appealing for assistance for amputee Sharon Walters, of St Johnston’s Village, and Kenroy Phillip, of Central Street, Villa, who shared their plight with Observer this week.
“I want to take it slow and pledge my commitment and to work with the government to ensure that people like these two get the necessary support for them to have a better standard of living,” Warner said.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas told reporters at Thursday’s post-Cabinet press briefing that special assistance will be given to families with disabled members. He said the National Office of Disaster Services (NODS) has a database with approximately 30 families that fit into this category and the government would also work closely with Warner to identify others in need.
The minister was also asked by reporters why it took a national disaster for the government to respond to the needs of the most vulnerable.
Nicholas’ response was that it was not the sole responsibility of the government to cater to the needs of the disabled, saying many of them have been abandoned by their family.
He said the government has provided help thorough the Ministry of Transformation and improvements will be made where necessary.
“This is a total societal response. The government will do more where necessary and we want to ensure that we are directing the resources to the persons who are desperately in need of it,” Nicholas said.