Children Missing Out on Orphan Grants

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK THE lack of adequate identification documents and birth certificates particularly in the border regions of the Kavango, Caprivi and Omaheke makes it difficult for the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare to process grants for orphans. The grants being issued by the Ministry are also intended for vulnerable children. It so happens that there is no proof of ID documents from some parents in these regions, ultimately resulting in these needy children not qualifying for the maintenance grants for their monthly upkeep. Citing this challenge, Control Social Worker Joyce Nakuta said the dilemma was that “without any proper documents the child cannot be registered” and in most cases it happens that there is no confirmation of one parent who resides across the border. She said such a situation becomes problematic as the Ministry only caters for vulnerable children. If some parents are out in other countries working, a grant is not allowed. Yet, Nakuta added, the Ministry is revising procedures to address this concern in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs that is currently going about registering all Namibians and providing them with identification documents and birth certificates. Despite this challenge, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare has made remarkable progress in eliminating the backlog of Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) who are in need of maintenance grants through their Outreach Campaign in an attempt to bring services closer to the people. In a recent speech, the Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare Marlene Mungunda said currently the number of OVC benefiting from maintenance and foster parent grants stands at 37 717 compared to 9 739 when the Ministry took over grant payments in 2003. This represents an increase of 93 percent during the period between 2003 and 2004. Mungunda attributes this progressive development to the commendable work done by social workers and record clerks in the country. “Volunteers were recruited to go out into the constituencies to identify and register orphans who qualify for grants and refer the vulnerable groups to social workers for foster placements in order for them to access the grants paid by the Ministry,” explained the Minister at the recent launching of the World’s Children Report 2006. There are currently 80 000 orphans and vulnerable children in Namibia and this number of orphans under the age of 15 years is expected to increase to approximately 250 000 by 2021. As a result, the growing number of OVC is considered one of the major development challenges facing the country. However, over the years, the Ministry has made great strides in addressing this concern, especially through its Child Welfare Grants Programme. Explaining the initiative, Control Social Worker Nakuta said more children are now benefiting from these grants. These grants fall under maintenance, special grants for children with disabilities, foster care grants and place of safety allowances. “We used to receive 1 000 applications on a weekly basis from the regions before and now we are up to date dealing with them as they come in,” said Nakuta, adding that with the increasing demand of OVC, more social workers are needed on the ground to deal with the process. With foster care inquiries negotiated with the Ministry of Justice for allocation of time, cases are being dealt with more effectively. This normally takes three months from the date of application until the first payment is made. The payments are usually N$200 for the first child, plus N$100 for every additional child for a maximum of three children per applicant, per family on a monthly basis. “If you can’t collect your grant yourself, or the concerned children do not live with you, you may appoint a person you trust to collect your grant regularly for you or for the concerned children’s caretaker like for instance a grandmother,” explained Nakuta, adding that this person is called the procurator.