12 06 2008

Ugandans need insurance against physical disability

10 June 2008
The New Vision


by Hamad Lubwama

If you were unable to work because of a long-term disability, how would you provide for yourself and family? What if you became permanently disabled and confined into a wheelchair for the rest of your life? Research shows that 10% of disabilities occur on jobs when, for example, a worker gets an accident or sickness and eventually becomes disabled while on duty.

According to World Health Organisation, three million of the projected 30 million Ugandans are living with disabilities. With five people per household, this means 15 million Ugandans face the dire consequences of disability on a daily basis.

Insurance companies in Uganda should start offering disability policies and sensitise people about the policies. People with disabilities face challenges like abject poverty, low self-esteem, stigmatisation, marginalisation and discrimination. Most of these challenges rotate around finances. If one’s paycheck is insured – as people insure their houses, businesses and cars against various risks – the disabled would be assured of the means of livelihood.

Ugandans are prone to many causes of disability such as diseases (mostly malaria and polio), land mines, accidents, witchcraft, use of drugs and poverty.

In the US, May is the Disability Insurance Awareness Month (DIAM). It was gazetted to get American workers to think about the need to protect their greatest asset – their ability to earn an income. DIAM is an industry-wide effort that is coordinated by the non-profit LIFE Foundation to sensitise and urge people to get disability insurances.

Like in Uganda, it is difficult to qualify for workman’s compensation and the social security in the US. Matthew Tassey, the former chairman for LIFE Foundation, once said: “Most people have a false sense of security when it comes to being financially prepared for a long-term disability. The reality is the majority of workers do not have disability coverage through work, and disability benefits offered by government, as social security or worker’s compensation, can be very difficult to qualify for.

“If you work for a living, you must recognise that your ability to work and earn income is one of your most valuable assets and must be adequately insured. Disability insurance is the only coverage that will work when you can’t to replace your income in the event you become ill or injured and can’t do your job.”

There are over 60 million individual disability insurance policies in force in the US.

Under the NSSF scheme in Uganda, one cannot get their money until they reach retirement age. This is above the life expectancy of most Ugandans. When people get the money in lump sum, they misuse it and after a few months they run broke.

Workers’ compensation only covers you if you get injured, ill or die as a result of your job, and only 10% of disabilities occur on the job. Nevertheless, workers’ compensation payments are offered by few employers and many applicants fail to qualify.

For those who are self employed, your businesses may collapse if you become disabled. For example, you may be admitted in hospital following an accident and later get confined in a wheelchair. This makes you unable to adequately run or supervise your business.

Having a disability cover is the best way to ensure that you will be financially protected in the event that you become disabled.

Just as one would insure his or her valuable assets, it is important to insure the paycheck. The challenge, therefore, is for insurance companies to start offering this policy to ensure financial stability of Ugandans.

The writer is the Information Officer of Uganda National Action on Physical Disability.




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