THE Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with UNICEF Jamaica signalling their partnership and commitment to improving the quality of life for people with disabilities and to modernise the social protection system.
According to the 2011 census there are approximately 580,000 people with disabilities in Jamaica, however only 15,540 are registered, of which just about 5,000 are children.
"There is an urgent need for all stakeholders to work together to ensure that no one is left behind," said UNICEF Jamaica representative Olga Isaza at the recent signing ceremony.
"UNICEF is concerned that of the number of persons living with disabilities, 25 per cent are poor and 53 per cent live in rural areas," added Isaza.
The MoU forms part of a broader initiative to ensure a child-sensitive, shock-responsive social protection system for Jamaica. It also covers technical support to strengthen the quality of services for persons with disabilities, especially children.
Additionally, the project is ensuring that the information systems used in Jamaica's social protection system are integrated to support increased coverage and coordination and, importantly, that they work to close gender gaps in the policy and legislative frameworks.
Isaza pointed out that these are critical areas which require sustained attention to protect and build on the gains made within the past decade.
"We must continue to work to advance the fundamental rights and promote the full potential of children in accordance with the SDGs and Jamaica's 2030 development plan," she said.
On behalf of the Government, chairman of the JCPD board Colin Ebanks welcomed the partnership agreement with UNICEF and declared that it quite significant on behalf of people with disabilities.
According to Ebanks, the organisation is anticipating training in advocacy and other capacity-building opportunities for the board of directors and technical staff of the JCPD, as well as the transformative management information system that will see improved service delivery to persons with disabilities.
Under the agreement, over the next 18 months UNICEF will accelerate its work with the JCPD to support the needs of the most disadvantaged children through a project oversight committee comprising the Government, partner UN agencies such as UN Women, and the World Food Programme.
"We are enhancing payment processes — making them more efficient, effective, and accessible — as well as strengthening institutional capacity for evidence-based emergency expansion of social protection programmes for the most vulnerable," said UN Resident Coordinator Vincent Sweeney.
The project is being funded by a Joint Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Fund Programme and the Canadian Government. The European Union (EU) is a donor agency to the Joint SDG Fund.
Speaking on behalf of the EU, Ambassador Marianne Van Steen said, "The European Union uses this opportunity to reiterate its commitment to raising awareness on the living conditions of persons with disabilities, highlighting the challenges they encounter in everyday life as we assist with providing the tools and resources needed to improve their lives."