A vital tool for inclusive social protection
In four municipalities across Nepal, an innovative disability screening model is helping to identify and issue ID cards to persons with disabilities, connecting them to a variety of government services and benefits
Salyan, Nepal: When Atom Oli was born at the health post in Bagchaur Municipality in Salyan District in Nepal’s west almost a decade ago, mother Prabha didn’t suspect in the least that he had any health issues.
However, as the months passed, Prabha noticed that her son was having a lot of difficulty moving his head and limbs, certainly more than other children his age. Worried, she took him to a hospital, where he underwent a series of scans and test.
And so it was that, at eight months old, little Atom was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Although devastated by the news at first, Prabha says she eventually realized she needed to come to terms with the situation and move forward. “We have to accept him the way he is,” she says.
In the years since, Prabha and her husband have been committed to taking care of Atom and his younger sister – and trying their best to prevent their son’s condition from affecting his quality of life. But, Prabha admits, raising a child with disability is not easy.
“We spent a great deal of money in the beginning on treatments for Atom,” Prabha explains. “And since my husband and I don’t earn a lot, it’s often difficult to fulfill our children’s basic needs.”
It was, therefore, with a sense of great relief that Prabha recently received information from the local Women’s Development Center about a social protection programme that the Government of Nepal was running, aimed at providing necessary support to people – including children – with disabilities. “I was told to take my child to be screened at the camp and that he would then receive an identity card,” she says.
The disability identity card is designed to help persons with disabilities access social security allowances and various disability-specific services and benefits related to education, health, public transport and assistive devices, among others.
UNICEF, in partnership with the European Union, Save the Children, and CWISH, is supporting the Government in preparing clear checklists and guidelines to help identify people with disability, so that the screenings can proceed in a transparent and objective manner, and ID cards issued effectively to ensure access to inclusive social protection programmes.
On 30 November 2022, Atom was among over 150 people with disabilities who were screened by designated healthworkers and government officials at the camp organized in Bagchaur. Following the assessment, the nine-year-old was given a disability ID card. The card now enables him to receive a monthly allowance, as well as a scholarship at his school, among other benefits.
Prabha is thankful for the support. “The allowance eases things for us,” she says. “We can buy more nutritious food, for example, and can set some savings aside for healthcare.”
She adds that she will be reaching out to other families with children with disabilities to make sure that they know about this provision and make use of it. “This gives you access to a variety of social security services that the Government is offering to people with disabilities to make their lives easier,” she says.
Similar initiatives to screen and issue ID cards to persons with disabilities are currently being piloted in three other municipalities - Agnisair Rural Municipality in Saptari District; Dhulikhel Municipality in Kavre District; and Tarakeshor Municipality in Kathmandu District. UNICEF will also be supporting eight other local governments in the Madhesh and Karnali Provinces to conduct such screenings in 2023. The federal government has also committed to incorporating the checklists developed for these screenings in its policy and rolling them out across the country.