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Mglsd, WFP carry out verification of the elderly to benefit from SAGE in Karamoja.

Friday 17 March, 2023

Elders filing their complains during the verification exercise in Kotido recently

By Timothy Eodu-Karamoja

The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development-Mglsd with support from the World Food Program embarked on a three day exercise to verify details of the elderly person’s in Karamoja that could have been incorrectly taken by National Identification Registration Authority-NIRA during the previous exercises.

Mglsd Regional Operations Coordinator Mr. Gabriel Achia Lokiru said taking data of the elderly persons in Karamoja was too complex since most of them could not ascertain their own rightful dates of birth.

“Our elders don’t know when they were exactly born, some of them say they are 10years old but physically they are more than that. The elders can only know when they were born using historical happenings which the young people (most of whom NIRA used) could not properly interpret to determine ages,” he said.

According to Lokiru, this led to incorrect usage of dates of birth of some elders who have since filed complaints with NIRA to change or correct mistakes taken during the previous registration exercises.

He said the activity was piloted in two districts of Kotido and Moroto which had more complaints. He however anticipates that the whole region could be having over 8000 cases that need to be helped so that they can start benefitting from the SAGE program.

An elderly woman being escorted by her son to the verification point in Kotido

The Kotido SAGE Focal point person Mrs. Lilly Lemukol said during the two day exercise, some cases of much older persons who were not benefitting from SAGE yet younger ones did were registered. She said it’s necessary to register elderly persons not only to benefit from SAGE but also other government programs that will target them.

Lemukol urged government and funders to extend the period of verification and also the scope if most elders in the region are to be captured in the national Data base.

The Chairperson vetting committee of North division in Kotido Mr. David Moding Kamil attributed the mistakes taken to lack of proper explanation by the elders and also failure by most to turn up for the registration process.

“I blame my elders who didn’t benefit from SAGE for not presenting themselves for registration. Some of these people stay very far, some cannot move on their own but others deliberately refused to be registered only to start complaining later after seeing their friends benefiting,” he said.

However some of the elderly persons said during the NIRA registration process, they were not listened to as they tried to explain of when they were born but instead, the NIRA data entrants chose to use guess work on their (elder’s) behalf.

Rita Kiyonga, an elder from Toroi village in Kotido district said she was born during the period of drilling the first borehole in Lowalongobot but instead, they (data entrants) laughed at her. She added that while growing up, most of the colleagues she used to fetch water with from the same borehole have been benefiting from SAGE yet she is not.

Kiyonga also said that some other age mate of hers who passed on recently was also benefiting from the same program. She said to prove her date of birth, her young brother who is also benefiting from SAGE will be her witness.

Madelena Moding another elder from Lochoto village in Kotido district said she was born when the stars moved from the east to the west while raids were very active in their area. She said all her two siblings are benefiting from SAGE and yet they are younger than her.

Moding also said her elder son is also benefiting from the program, proof enough that she is very old. She blamed the data entrants for not interpreting properly the event that would help to tell her estimated age.

According to Mglsd representative in Moroto Tahinduka Francis, the change of mechanism from community targeting to working with NIRA, which most elders in the region did not registered with at that time affected the enrollment of SAGE in the region.

The regional operations coordinator, Mr. Gabriel Achia chatting with one of the elders at the verification point.

He said NIRA did mop up registration across the region but most people, especially didn’t register for some reasons unknown but also others could have been affected by wrong information entered in their data base with NIRA.

He cautions that during this process, the community may attempt to change their ages so that they can benefit urging that these unjustified changes may affect the national statistics but also roll out of government programs in the region.

Joseph Owor, the Operations officer RTSU Moroto says a lot of challenges is being met because of the need for money and the community is contesting the new age limit of 80years and they say such age groups no longer exists in the region.

He said they are working hard to ensure that they meet the target as much as the turn up is low due to the migratory nature of the settlements and use of IDs.

Jennifer Akot the Moroto sage Focal point person said in Karamoja due to the poor diet and over consumption of alcohol, most people tend to look elderly whereas not.

She said with the increase of the age target group, a lot of former beneficiaries maybe left out and as such they are working together with the district leadership to sensitize the communities on the changes.

According to Samuel Lorika the CDO Lotisan Sub County, they have up to 25 elders who had registered complaints with NIRA but some of them have also not turned up due to unspecified reasons. He said they registered two cases of person’s whose actual date of birth was below the required but yet they had no close relatives to affirm that they are actually 80 or even above.

Mr. Tahinduka said it’s upon this background that the government in partnership with WFP has come up with simplified guidelines to help the elderly be registered at ease. He says part of the guidelines is use of parish vetting committees to help guide through the process to get factual data which can be used to capture beneficiaries without leaving others.

The vetting committees are based at sub county level comprising of Sub County chairperson council of the elders as the Chairperson, sub county CDO as the secretary and members are the parish chiefs.

From Thursday 9th, March, the process of verification has begun to assess complains as regards to error in national IDs. NIRA data shows that about 3000 complaints had been filed from within the region.

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