Keeping up an active island life through Disability Grant

Jul 25, 2018

Miriama Ratu cooked ‘island roti’ with coconut milk to provide breakfast to the REACH mobile service delivery team who visited her village. (Photo: UNDP)

Mamanuca Islands, Fiji - In the middle of the turquoise blue waters of the South Pacific Ocean fringed with coral reefs, the Mamanuca Islands are a world-class tourist destination, boasting 20 hotels and resorts.

Behind the scenes of these hotels and resorts that ensure comfortable, friendly and relaxing holidays to tourists, are the local people from the villages on these islands. They enjoy the benefits of the rich natural environment, but at the same time, deal with challenges particular to their islands, such as limited water supply, and other challenges.

“I was a girl scampering around the village and climbing up the trees. That is why I injured my leg.” Miriama Ratu, a 63-year-old, cast a wistful smile remembering the spirited girl she used to be. That smile returned more fully and cheerfully as she was informed by an officer from the Social Welfare Department that her application for the Disability Allowance was accepted and she would receive the first monthly grant next month.

Miriama has been on her own for more than six years in Tavua village on Tavua Island since her daughter married and moved away to Fiji’s main island of Viti Levu. While Miriama is still able to help at her brother’s grocery shop and manage her daily life in the village, the growing pain and constraints of her injured leg prompted her to apply for the welfare scheme.

A bonus to her was that she was able to immediately open a bank account into which the benefit would be deposited, and she was assisted directly by an officer from a bank right in the village hall. Recipients of welfare schemes usually need to go to town and open a bank account to receive the allowance if they do not have one, as most of the rural populations in Fiji do not have bank accounts. However, it is not an easy job for the recipients of benefits and allowances to organize their own trips to town and it is especially difficult for Miriama.

The coordinated response that facilitated Miriama’s path to social benefits was made possible by the Rights, Empowerment and Cohesion (REACH) for Rural and Urban Fijians Project. The REACH Project is implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Pacific Office in Fiji in partnership with the Fiji Government and supported by the Government of Japan.

The Project sends multi-sectoral teams of officers from various government agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector directly to the communities to raises awareness on social, legal and economic rights, and delivers the related public services at people’s doorsteps. This mobile service delivery has reached 808 communities in all 14 provinces of Fiji, including Rotuma Island, since it commenced in July 2016.

The Disability Allowance is a new social welfare scheme set up in Fiji in 2017 following ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities on 7 June 2017. It is administered by the Disability Unit established in the Ministry of Women, Children and Poverty Alleviation. The Unit is expected to support some of the 113,595 persons (13.7%) of Fiji’s population who reported to have at least one disability (2017 Census, Fiji Bureau of Statistics).

With the coordinated and timely delivery of services, support from her village and her daughter, Miriama is able to keep up her strength and live an active island life.

The REACH mobile service delivery contributes to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with a focus on Goal 5, achieving gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls; and Goal 16, promoting peace, justice and strong institutions, through increasing government accountability and building the confidence between the people and the Government.

UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP Pacific Office 
Go to UNDP Global