Up to a third of adults in Uganda were banned from vital health and social services for lack of national identity cards, according to a report.
Women and the elderly are from the introduction of the digital identity cardsrequired to access government and private health care, receive social benefits, vote, and open bank accounts or purchase 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 registration.
The report, published by three human rights organizations, estimates that between 23% and 33% of Uganda’s adult population do not have an identity card, which was introduced by the National Identification and Registration Authority (Nira) in 2015.
Many of the cards issued contain errors, the report said. Correcting mistakes or replacing lost or stolen cards costs a minimum of 50,000 Ugandan shillings (£ 10). More than 40% of Uganda’s population live on less than 1.30 pounds a day.
One of the nurses interviewed said ID cards should not prevent access to health care, which is “a matter of life and death”.
The report called on the government to stop requiring ID cards to access essential services. The 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 widespread exclusion and related human rights violations” resulting from the mandatory use of the cards, those called “Ndaga Muntu”.
Angella Nabwowe of the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights, one of the organizations that produced the report, said, “The government needs to go back to the drawing board and reconsider the use of Ndaga Muntu, especially when it comes to labeling it as a service . “Delivery because a lot of people are left out.”
The report describes how women and the elderly were particularly affected by the ID regulation.
“Without ID” […], no treatment, ”said a woman from Amudat in northern Uganda. “Many people get sick, stay home and die.”
“I was followed [for ID] twice. When they chased me, I just went home. What could I do? I came [back] at home and using herbs, ”said a mother from Kayunga, central Uganda, recalling a time when she tried to get access to health services. “But if they chase you and you return in critical condition, they will say that you are lying and that you have never been there.”
A pregnant mother told the researchers, “The nurse asked me for an ID and I said I didn’t have one. you [the nurse] threw the book at me and said she wouldn’t care about me. “
Researchers found that due to errors on identity cards, thousands of people over the age of 80 were unable to receive monthly grants of 25,000 Ugandan shillings (£ 5) Social assistance subsidies to strengthen self-employment (Sage) program supported by the UK government.
Okye, an 88-year-old man from Namayingo, eastern Uganda, told researchers that his age card was 79 years old, ”he said.
According to the report, at least 50,000 people over 80 have similar errors on their ID cards or have no ID at all, leaving them ineligible for government assistance.
The report also criticized the nira’s failure to record births and deaths. Recent estimates show that only 13% of children under one year of age have registered their births.
“This means, among other things, that when the majority of Uganda’s young population reaches adulthood and registers for Ndaga Muntu, they cannot prove their identity and age because they do not have a birth certificate,” the report said.
“It is quite absurd to invest in registering the adult population for a national passport and forget about the next generation. It’s like Nira’s left hand doesn’t know and doesn’t care what her right hand is doing, ”said Dorothy Mukasa of Unwanted Witness, who co-authored the report.
Rosemary Kisembo, Managing Director of Nira, told the Guardian: “Nira management and employees are deeply saddened by the pain our customers experience in accessing our services and enjoying their legal rights.
“We recognize the urgent need for improvement. Over the next six months, we will be building mobile teams to reach rural areas at the parish and subdistrict level, as well as in the metropolitan areas. These mobile units will prioritize elderly and disabled people.
“We will train alternative practitioners in health facilities, duty bearers and village health teams to help the rural population register births and deaths in communities or during vaccinations or hospital visits,” she said.