Up to a third of adults in Uganda have been excluded from vital health and social services because they do not have national identification cards, according to a report.
Women and the elderly have been particularly affected by the introduction of digital identity cards, who are obliged to access government and private health care, claim social benefits, vote and open bank accounts or buy SIM cards.
Many services that require identification are funded by donors, including the UK and Ireland, which fund grants for the elderly, and the World Bank, which supports birth records.
The report, published by three human rights organizations, estimates that between 23% and 33% of Uganda’s adult population do not have identification cards, which were introduced by the National Identification and Registration Authority (Nira) in 2015.
Many of the cards issued include errors, the report said. Correcting mistakes or replacing lost or stolen cards costs at least 50,000 Ugandan shillings (£ 10). More than 40% of the Ugandan population live on less than £ 1.30 a day.
One of the nurses interviewed said that identification cards should not impede access to medical care, which is “a matter of life and death.”
The report called on the government to stop requiring identification cards to access essential services. Its authors also called on the World Bank, UN agencies and donors to urge the Ugandan government to “do everything in its power to prevent further total exclusion and related human rights violations” that result from mandatory use of the cards, referred to as Ndaga Muntu ”.
Angella Nabwowe of the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, one of the organizations that produced the report, said: “The government has to go back to the drawing board and rethink the use of Ndaga Muntu, especially when it comes to labeling it for delivery service, because a lot of people are being left out. “
The report details how women and the elderly have been particularly affected by the identification scheme.
“No identification […]without treatment, ”said a woman from Amudat, northern Uganda. “A lot of people get sick and stay home and die.”
“I was persecuted [for ID] twice. When they chased me, I went home. What I can do? I came [back] house and used herbs, ”said a mother from Kayunga, central Uganda, recalling a time she tried to access health services. “But if they chase you and you come back in critical condition, they’ll say you’re lying and you’ve never been there before.”
A pregnant mother told investigators: “The nurse asked me for a national ID and I said I didn’t have one. Her [the nurse] He threw the book at me and said he wouldn’t take care of me. “
The researchers found that ID card errors have left thousands of people aged 80 and over unable to receive monthly grants of 25,000 Ugandan shillings (£ 5), under the Social assistance grants for empowerment (Sage), which is supported by the UK government.
Okye, an 88-year-old man from Namayingo, eastern Uganda, told investigators that his card indicated that he was 79 years old. “This has caused me to lose the benefits of Sage because, according to the national ID, I have yet to mark 80 years,” he said.
According to the report, at least 50,000 people over the age of 80 have similar errors on their ID cards or do not have a national ID, making them ineligible for government assistance.
The report also criticized Nira’s failure to record births and deaths. Recent estimates show that only 13% of children under the age of one had their births registered.
“Among other things, this means that as the young Ugandan population reaches adulthood and is eligible to register with Ndaga Muntu, most of them will not be able to prove their identity and age because they do not have a birth certificate,” says the report.
“It is quite absurd to invest in the registration of the adult population for a national identification and forget about the next generation. It’s like Nira’s left hand doesn’t know, and doesn’t care, what her right hand does, ”said Dorothy Mukasa of Unwanted Witness, a co-author of the report.
Rosemary Kisembo, CEO of Nira, told The Guardian: “Nira’s management and staff are deeply saddened by the pain our clients are experiencing accessing our services and enjoying their legal rights.
“We recognize the urgent need for improvement. In the next six months, we will create mobile teams to reach rural areas at the parish and sub-county level and in congested urban areas. These mobile units will give priority to the elderly and disabled.
“We will train health professionals in village health facilities, duty bearers and health teams to help rural populations register birth and death in communities or during immunization or visits to the village. hospital, ”he said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism