Social security covers health, education, and social lives of people as a whole. The emphasis of social security is on enhancing social awareness and development through self-reliance with an ultimate aim of social justice. Since independence the Government of Eritrea has taken several important measures in a wide range of areas with the objective of achieving rapid socio-economic growth. As part of this objectives, the Department of Social Security (SSD) in the Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare (MHLW) was established to promote social security.
The society in which a person lives is at the core of social security activities. Its activities are underpinned by societal values to tackle social problems and develop the human capacity for the improvement of living standards and overall social wellbeing. Social security is multidimensional and affects every aspect of community life.
In traditional societies, the culture of helping one another, and particularly, to the victims of social misfortunes through community works and campaigns has deep roots. This includes respect to the elderly, child care, and support to the disabled. In order to develop and make this traditional value more effective, committees are formed in mourning, wedding, and other social occasions to help those who are in need, and their contribution in social stability is immense. Institutional social security activities in Eritrea trace their roots to this tradition of moral values and norms of the society as its base.
In Eritrea social security service started during the Italian colonial era mainly targeting orphans. Cheshayer Physiotherapy and St. Mary Psychiatric Hospital are some of the institutions that had been established during the colonial time to offer social security service. Under the successive colonial regimes, social security service continued, but its coverage was limited to few people.
The EPLF was offering social security service in an organised manner and established social security division in areas it controlled. During the struggle for independence. At its first organizational congress in 1977, the EPLF ensured that orphans, the disabled and the displaced would be given proper protection.
Some of the services that were given under difficult conditions were child care, support to the disabled and the blind.
The vision of the Social Security Department (SSD) is to prepare a ground where the disadvantaged segments of the society can have equal access to service and resources, and secure social and economic protection on areas that influence their livelihood negatively.
The SSD is mandated to provide social security that is effective and sustainable which creates equal opportunities to the vulnerable in general and to the disabled, the elderly, orphans, and other victims of social misfortunes in ways that make them productive and self-reliant so that they would contribute to the development of the nation.
Its activities revolve around self-reliance and social justice. The SSD prefers communal and family type of treatment for institutional treatment. The support given should be in a form that can make the targeted person/ community self-reliant, freedom dependency as well as alleviate societal burdens, and pave the way for a better future.
A treatment that creates an opportunity for social integration and motivates self-reliance in ways that empower communal participation in treating the disadvantaged segments of a society eventually minimises the costs of the government and moves forward a sustainable solution.
Development of human capacity can be achieved if the society can get social and educational support and the people can obtain skills that support them to acquire jobs. Investing on human capital is crucial for building a nation’s economy.
The SSD adheres to communal type of treatment because the social problems and their solutions lay mainly in the society and this also paves the way for communities to participate in solving the matters that affect them. Moreover, they can determine their problems more easily by themselves and provide better solutions. There is also the opportunity to use the societal values and resources to solve problems cooperatively by members of the community.
Since the social security activities are done within the society their sustainability can be ensured. Moreover, solving social problems based on the society’s socio-economic condition reduces the cost and effort. For example, instead of placing orphans, the elderly and the disabled in institutions, accommodating them within the society makes their development more secure. And this is beneficial to the targeted person and the community.
The social protection goals of the SSD are concerned with promotional and preventive measures. The department prepares for interventions to enhance prevention, preparedness, recovery and rehabilitation in the event of natural or man-made disasters.
Community empowerment is one of the methods which the SSD actively promotes. In Eritrea conducting awareness campaigns directed at prostitutes, beggars, victims of communicable diseases and other victims of social misfortune have proved to bear successful results.
Rehabilitation is the second task of the SSD. It carries out rehabilitation activities for the victims of social misfortunes (the most vulnerable segments of the society, the poor, orphans, the elderly and the disabled, underage criminals, beggars, prostitutes and other people affected by natural and war induced problems.
Increasing the role of community-based risk improvement measures has a vital role in alleviating social difficulties. This is the third task of SSD that deals with coordinating the efforts of individuals, groups, relief associations and other civic societies with governmental safety nets to avoid fragmentation and for the eventual enhancement of the living standards of the population.
After Eritrea’s independence social security activities took their drive basically from the traditional social values of the Eritrean people coupled with the experience gained during the armed struggle and guided by the national charter and macro-economic policy of the State and ad-hoc strategies that were introduced by the SSD.
In the early post- independence years, the SSD was charged with the responsibility to deal with those most affected by war large number of orphans, the disabled, migrants that were returning back home, retired combatants that needed rehabilitation for civilian life, people hit by drought, etc.
In 1992, Social Affairs Division was established under the proclamation No. 23/1992 by incorporating the social security institutions that were in operation under the Derg regime. In 1994, social security service started under the Social Affairs Authority. And in 1995 the SSD was set up as a subordinate department at the Ministry of Labour and Human Welfare.
The ministry has introduced measures that allow the population to participate in addressing social problems and drafted policies that shape the rights of children and people with disabilities elaborated far more improved work policies that concern social security matters. It has also conducted different studies and timely assessments regarding prostitutes, beggars, street people, victims of communicable diseases and other victims of social misfortunes.
One of the major objectives of the ministry is to increase its human power at the regional and sub-regional divisions. The Ministry has graduated 424 trainees in cooperation with Adi- Keih College of Arts and Social Sciences to boost the capacity of the institutions and to make social security services more accessible.
Children require particular attention because investing in today’s children is investing for the future. In this regard, the family is given a particular focus due to the special role it plays in a child’s upbringing and its place as the main building block of a society. In order to ensure this, the ministry has conducted several awareness raising campaigns in the six regional administrations targeting students, parents, teachers and elders to promote good upbringing, control peer pressure, increase the role of communities in mitigating the prevalence of child dumping, eradicating harmful traditional practices, and enlightening the children and the youth to maintain their society’s values through seminars and conferences. In 43 sub-zones, committees have been established from all governmental institutions and associations that engage in protecting children’s rights. These committees’ activities were vital in ensuring children’s rights and reducing crimes inflicted on or perpetrated by children.
The ministry has translated conventions that advocate children’s rights into six Eritrean languages and awareness about them is advanced through the media and seminars. The ministry has published four periodic work papers and distributed them to partners.
The ministry’s working strategies on orphans are reunification (orphans are raised with their close relatives), adoption (children whose parents are unknown can be adopted following the ministry’s due process of adoption), foster care, and orphanage institution within the community in the form of “group home” under the auspices of the ministry.
The ministry prefers a “family type” method because the family is the main building block of the society and plays an important role in accommodating its member’s socio-economic needs. Family-based foster care is generally preferred to other forms of out-of-home care. The ministry has provided assistance to 77,383 children placed in 29,773 families through various assistance measures for socio-economic stability.
Around 207 orphans have been adopted and 236 others have been placed with foster cares. Other alternatives for children whose close relatives can’t be found and those who didn’t get adopted are placed under the orphanage center in Asmara and currently there are around 850 under its care.
Children become victims of social problems due to different factors, and the SSD has taken different measures to tackle the problems. The SSD has provided student uniforms, books, vocational training and other accessories to improve their future livelihoods and provided financial support to help kick-start small businesses for more than 60, 714, and around 2,232 children have been beneficiaries of training provided by co-partners.
The SSD drafted a comprehensive policy on persons with disabilities in 2015. Studies were carried out at regional and sub-regional and, local administration levels, and village rehabilitation workers, members of associations, disabled persons, and members of NUEW have been involved in the study and offered their assessment which helped to draft the policy. This policy aims to improve the coordination and implementation of various policies and strategies relating to social security of the disabled.
To enhance the attitude towards persons with disabilities, make the disabled beneficiaries of their resources, empower the community based rehabilitation program and improve productivity of the disabled persons, the SSD supported many activities including sensitization and community awareness activities, and training of community based rehabilitation workers (CBRWs), local supervisors, social workers, health staff, school directors, and persons with disabilities in 52 sub-zones. There are more than 2802 voluntary CBRWs that organize and implement these activities. As a result, community awareness about people with disabilities has significantly improved over time. Through the devotion of the CBRWs, 15,993 disabled persons were made to get medical services and 1431 disabled persons have become beneficiaries of academic and vocational training. Land was distributed to more than 52,252 disabled persons for agriculture and residence. The government has invested a total 19,966,500 Nkf in the form of assistance and social service.
Children with disabilities have been provided with crutches and 1184 students were provided with donkeys and educational facilities. Moreover, to create employment opportunities and help people out of dependency, the disabled and retired members of the army have been provided with circular loan, which benefitted 5219.
The ministry follows various mechanisms on the issue of beggars and the elderly. It endeavors to reduce the prevalence of prostitution through teaching programs focusing on health care in cooperation with the Ministry of Health and other concerned partners.
Eritrea is located
in an environment prone to drought and other natural disasters, and this has negatively affected the rehabilitation and retirement projects in different places at different times. The SSD has encountered various kinds of natural and war induced social problems and the government is pouring a significant amount of national budget to address these problems.