|Date: Mar 21, 2019|
|Source: The Daily Star|
|Govt urged to pay special needs NGO|
|Abby Sewell| The Daily Star|
BEIRUT: People with special needs whose rehabilitation center closed because the government failed to pay it staged a protest alongside their families in Downtown Beirut Wednesday morning, demanding that Cabinet back-pay the funds the state owes so the center can reopen. The Myriam Center in Hadath, a center for severely disabled people run by the Al-Kafaat Foundation, closed its doors at the beginning of the year, leaving about 100 former clients without services.
The NGO is one of dozens of organizations that are contracted with the Social Affairs Ministry to provide services to disabled people but that did not receive payments from the government for more than a year.
Ministry officials had said they would find spots in other NGOs for the center’s former clients, but parents and other family members who protested in Riad al-Solh Square Wednesday said many of the clients had not received a new placement.
The families briefly blocked the road, calling on Cabinet to pay Al-Kafaat. Nadar Hanin, the mother of an 18-year-old daughter with autism, said her daughter has not yet been placed elsewhere.
“Our children are in a difficult situation because there is no organization that can take them in, and also we don’t want another organization, because our children are used to this center, and they won’t be able to adjust quickly,” she told The Daily Star. “We don’t want to put them in another center, we want our organization. Would a state that respects itself throw its children in the streets?”
Another mother, who gave her name only as Madame Hassoun, said she has three adult children with intellectual disabilities who have also not received another placement, and is concerned they will hurt themselves if they have to remain at home.
“No one will accept them because they’re a bit older,” Hassoun said. “I have three disabled children in the house - what am I supposed to do?”
Representatives of the NGOs previously told The Daily Star that they had not received contracted payments from the government through all of 2018.
Some organizations had to take out bank loans and stop paying staff to avoid closing their doors.
Last month, NGOs were paid for the first three months of 2018, but have not received any payments since, said Moussa Charafeddine, the president of the National Union on Intellectual Disabilities.
“This is an unbearable situation for all NGOs,” he said.
Former Social Affairs Minister Pierre Bou Assi previously told The Daily Star that the payment lag had occurred because the Finance Ministry would not release the funds.
Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil did not respond to a request for comment.