WINDHOEK, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- For the first in a long time, wheel-chaired Hendrik Isaak from the Kharas region in the southern part of Namibia happily and easily moved from one place to another.
"I feel great because the government has given me a new modern wheelchair. I cannot walk, so I struggled a lot in the past. But now that has changed," Isaak, in his 60s, said on Friday.
Like many disabled people in Namibia, before Isaak got the new wheelchair this month, it was difficult and costly for him to move around, which thwarted him.
But as luck would have it, he is one of the recipients of the 350 wheelchairs valued at 1.7 million Namibian dollars (about 106,783 U.S. dollars) provided by the government for people who need wheelchairs across the country.
For Ananias Nuule, in his mid-50s, from the northern part of Namibia, the donation is timely, as his old wheelchair was wearing out. "The new wheelchair will allow me to be still independent and not heavily rely on my family and friends to assist me. I feel I can, to an extent, still have my freedom," Nuule said.
Prime Minister of Namibia Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, who handed over ten wheelchairs to some beneficiaries, including Nuule, said that the donation responded to the appeal to meet the needs of people with disabilities across Namibia.
According to her, despite the country has made significant progress in empowering people with disability, many still face challenges.
"The provision of the wheelchairs would therefore address some challenges such as integration into society as well as access to health and basic services and fill other gaps. We cannot talk about inclusivity if we do not empower people, at the grassroots level," Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
"Previously, due to limited resources and poor socio-economic status, many disabled people resorted to crawling to their destinations, which was detrimental to their health and well-being. Now the movement has been erased, and they can be proactive," said Hendrik van der Westhuizen, a disability activist in the southern part of Namibia.
Meanwhile, in conjunction with local stakeholders, the Namibian government has also started a wellness and health response campaign to empower disabled people. They are looking at, amongst others, issues and challenges of accessibility to critical offices and social problems.
Alexia Manombe-Ncube, deputy minister for disability affairs, said that the awareness efforts aim to bring services such as health examinations, counseling, and psychosocial support closer to people living with disabilities, encourage active participation and address persistent challenges in communities.
This is more so, said the minister, because the government cannot discuss inclusivity without planning and involving people living with disabilities.
"It is only through engagement, exposure to services, dialogue, we will enable people with disabilities to influence our development and that of the overall society. The time has come for people with disabilities to pursue leadership and run businesses," Manombe-Ncube said.
Recent national statistics show that nearly five percent of the 2.5 million Namibian population live with some form of disability. Enditem