Last Updated on: 19th September 2022, 11:12 pm
In July 2022, Members of Parliament on the committee of Gender, Labour and Social Development wondered why each finical year there is a budget gap for the SAGE programme.
Lango – August 30, 2022: Older persons in Lira City have applauded the government for the Social Assistance Grant for Empowerment (SAGE) programme.
Some who spoke to this publication say the grant is of help to the elderly.
Through the grant, the government gives out a monthly stipend of shs25, 000 to persons aged 80 and above across the country.
Ms Teresa Otim, 83, is a widow. She currently resides in Lira City. “I started receiving the money in 2021, the money has been of help to me as I use it to buy food for my grandchildren.”
She applauded the government and partners involved in supporting the elderly. Like buying food, she also used part of the money to buy sheep.
The elderly woman who has received the money four times now, however, said that the shs25000 given is too little to help solve some needs.
Travelling 40 kilometers from Oyam district to Lira City to get her first money, she said transport takes a bigger share, and that the money is enough to feed her grandchildren and cater for other expenses.
She called upon the government to increase the money because it is very little.
Lecimechi Alela, another older in Lira City who is 80 years old, diagnosed with pressure and diabetes, said: “When I receive the money I use it to treat myself when sick and buy food.” She also said, “the money is too little and not enough”.
Alela has now received the money four times. “Previously the beneficiaries were advised to buy a goat or use it for farming but when i planted sweet potatoes at first, the money got finished in the garden since I had to hire people to help me in the garden.”
She added that if the money were to be increased from shs150, 000 to shs200, 000 it would help in solving some of her needs and she would also buy a goat for herself.
According to Anthony Otim, the focal point person for SAGE Programme in Oyam district, at the start they had 3,212 beneficiaries. In July 2022, he revealed that 2,255 beneficiaries were paid for 6 months.
Otim said some older persons did not turn up for the payment while others, he said could have died.
“The elders have been paid in five circles from the inception in 2020 in Oyam district,” he said in an interview, adding that they are paid shs25000 each month but the government makes it accumulate for 3-6 months and it’s given out at once.
He called upon the government to increase the money because looking at the way prices of commodities have increased; the amount is too little to solve their needs.
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“When a beneficiary dies, the relatives are to report to the parish chief then they are to sign death notification form and family meeting resolution form before the money is given to the next of kin,” the focal point person revealed.
Asked how often the register is updated, he said “every financial year,” adding that the list is generated by NIRA and sent to the Ministry of Finance and then back to the district.
Otim believes that money is changing the lives of older persons because they use it to buy food, and other household materials; pay school fees for grandchildren and so on.
“There’s another upcoming national welfare programme for the elderly called special enterprise grant for older persons which the consultation about it took place in August 2022. It is targeting those from 70-79 years old but it is not yet launched,” said Otim.
Some of the challenges he said they face are that there is no operational fund for the programme. “This demotivates the lower staff like the parish chief and community development officer (CDO). Some beneficiaries have a national ID that qualifies them to get SAGE money but their names don’t appear among the targeted people, this gives us a headache; some grandchildren steal their grandparents’ money, among other challenges.”
Morris Chris Ongom, the Chief Executive Officer of Global Forum for Development (GLOFORD) Uganda said: “The more we create programs that make elders’ life enjoyable, the more we will enjoy when we transition to that stage.”
He also applauded the government and development partners for coming out with the initiative to support the elderly because that age needs a lot of support.
Ongom cautioned the people of Lango whose elders are benefitting from SAGE to stop harassing them for the money they receive. This, he said, the elderly already have enough pain in life and if they are neglected and harassed they will carry more deadly curses in them.
The SAGE programme was started in 2010 as a pilot scheme covering 15 districts across the country. It was soon extended to 20 districts in 2015, including Kamuli district in Eastern Uganda.
By then, the program was targeting 100 older persons per sub-county but the number of beneficiaries gradually increased years later. The program was launched in Oyam district in 2020.
Challenges SAGE is facing
In July 2022, Members of Parliament on the committee of Gender, Labour and Social Development wondered why each finical year there is a budget gap for the SAGE programme. The MPs said the challenge is affecting the effective implementation of the program to the older persons in the country.
The Gender Committee of Parliament recommended that in the current financial year, the government should allocate shs27.6b to cover the amount overdue for at least 270,200 beneficiaries whose pay was not made in the 2020/2021 financial year.