Afghans Take To Streets To Protest Lack Of Funding
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
December 10, 2002
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN--Around 300 Afghans with disabilities, many using crutches and wheelchairs, protested outside the presidential palace Monday, demanding the government increase their benefits.
The peaceful demonstration took place as President Hamid Karzai's cabinet met inside to increase the social benefits it pays through the Ministry for the Disabled and Martyrs. The protesters, which included women and children, had warned the government that the demonstrations would continue until their demands were met.
"We are in a desperate condition," one of the demonstrators explained.
Twenty-three years of war and occupation have left Afghanistan with the highest percentage of people with disabilities of any country in the world, according to Reuters news. Approximately 400,000 people are registered with the ministry. It is believed there are another 400,000 not yet registered. Many lost arms and legs from land mine accidents over the past two decades.
"In the past they used to receive 100,000 afghanis ($2 US) a month and a committee was set up at the cabinet meeting to increase privileges," said Karzai's spokesman Sayed Fazl Akbar.
"We are talking about several million dollars a month now only for the Disabled and Martyrs' Ministry."
The ministry currently provides little funding, but some people with disabilities receive help from international aid agencies such as the Red Cross.