Kampala, Uganda | URN | Savers with the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) can now partially access their savings should they be undergoing treatment for COVID-19 at an Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
The NSSF says that they have already facilitated the treatment of some members, and urge those in such situations to approach the fund.
“Kindly note that If our member is in ICU and medical documents are submitted, the Fund doctor handles the assessment and advises accordingly in line with the invalidity benefit. We, therefore, request that they reach out to enable us to serve them better,” says a short statement by the fund.
This comes amidst complaints by several savers as to why NSSF would watch a saver die because of the unaffordable cost of treatment, and then give out the savings to the survivor of the dead saver.
Since the second wave of the pandemic last month, the Ministry of Health has reported higher numbers of daily deaths in double figures, than in the first wave. But while the numbers soared, many reported that they could not afford the cost of the treatment provided in hospitals across the country.
The treatment costs between 2 and 5 million Shillings per day, while some patients spend as many as 20 days in the ICU. This would mean a cost of between 40 and 100 million Shillings, which most Ugandans cannot afford.
Under the invalidity benefit, the NSSF Act provides that a member of the fund is entitled to their savings in the event of any physical or mental disability that may result in partial or permanent incapacity to earn a reasonable livelihood.
This is not the first time that Ugandans are appealing for partial access to their savings in times of a crisis. During the first wave of COVID-19, a section of the public unsuccessfully appealed for the release of at least 20 percent of their savings to help mitigate the effects of the then lockdown on their livelihoods. The NSSF cited the law, saying it was not allowed to release the funds.
With the support of the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, the NSSF also argued that releasing such huge sums would require selling assets of the fund to raise the cash. They argued that this is because most of the funds worth 10 trillion Shillings then, were in investment projects.