Covid-19: An increased threat to people with disabilities in rural communities

05 Jun, 2020 - 20:06 0 Views
Covid-19: An increased threat to people with disabilities in rural communities People with disabilities from Bulilima District receiving food hampers donated by Hand in Hand Zimbabwe

B-Metro

Gibson Mhaka
“BEING a carer is all I can remember as I do all the cooking, cleaning and washing. I’m doing these chores because there is no alternative.”

These two sentences with immense power were quietly spoken by a 10-year-old girl who is looking after her 38-year-old mother who is struggling with severe disabilities which come from brain injuries.

The girl from Ward One in Bulilima District admitted that she had to grow up fast as her mother relied on her to do all the house chores while her elder brother works as a herdman so they can buy food and their mother’s medication.

She disturbingly warned that nothing had been done to raise her awareness on the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, so that she could provide her mother with the guidance and support needed to protect her from the deadly global pandemic.

From her warning it is clear that while the full economic impacts of the Covid-19 crisis are still unfolding, rural people with disabilities are particularly vulnerable because they are less likely to have enough savings to help absorb even a small financial difficulty and are less likely to have jobs that allow them to continue earning a paycheck while working safely at home.

As people with disabilities in rural areas still struggle to access food and various social needs, they are likely already feeling the impacts from Covid-19 since a majority of them have no stable income.

In addition, there has been limited to no attention on how people with disability can access support services in a safe manner that protects them and the agencies from Covid-19 infection.

Zimbabwe’s celebrated motivational speaker, broadcaster and disability activist, Soneni Gwizi emphasised that the Covid-19 pandemic presents a serious threat to persons with disabilities particularly for those within marginalised communities around the world.

She said there was a dire need to help them so that they also play an active role in preventing the spread of the virus and ensure that their rights and well-being are safeguarded.

For people with disabilities in rural communities, it is a nightmare not to be able to buy basic commodities such as mealie-meal and cooking oil since they do not have any financial lifeline.

While many philanthropic acts have been profiled in the media about individuals helping persons with disabilities through individual or group donations, the benevolent gesture by Hand in Hand Zimbabwe (HiHZim) is also a welcome development.

As part of efforts to meet the growing need of food security for vulnerable households in rural areas, HiHZim is rolling out a number of Covid-19 humanitarian activities which include the distribution of food hampers, awareness material, personal protective equipment (PPE) and disinfectants to frontline staff and other essential service providers in the seven national districts it is operating from.

These include Bulilima, Chikomba, Chirumanzu, Gwanda, Lupane, Nkayi and Shurugwi.

Persons with disabilities are one of the groups most vulnerable and largely disadvantaged by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The intervention is part of the company’s efforts to alleviate the impact of Covid-19 on the less privileged especially people with disabilities who have little or no cushion on which to rely on.

Speaking to B-Metro after donating grocery hampers comprising cooking oil, mealie-meal, sugar beans, sugar, salt, flour, tea leaves, soya chunks and soap, to people living with disabilities, the elderly and child-headed families in Ward 1 Bulilima District Hand in Hand Zimbabwe chief executive officer Felix Tete said the donation was part of their organization’s efforts to fight hunger in vulnerable communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This comes as the disabled and the elderly are facing the brunt of the pandemic due to lack of social safety nets. With this in mind, HiH Zim partnered with the Government of Zimbabwe through the Department of Social Welfare – to ensure that grocery hampers reach the intended community members.

“To guarantee transparency and fairness in food distribution, selection of the beneficiaries was jointly conducted by the local leadership and the Department of Social Welfare, while home visits were also done to assess household needs,” said Tete.

He said Bulilima District, which falls in the dry agro-ecological regions of IV and V had lost most of its productive population to neighbouring countries leaving only the elderly and young children.

“Under normal circumstances, the diaspora population send remittances to the rural population. But with neighbouring countries on lockdown and informal trading at a halt, remittances are no longer coming. The situation has been made worse by the fact that most of the people living in neighbouring countries are now coming back home and are in quarantine centres, thus depriving the vulnerable people in the border-line district of the much-needed income,” he said.

According to United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas, support like that by HiH Zim was basic for their survival, adding that States must take additional social protection measures to guarantee the continuity of support in a safe manner throughout the crisis.

“Access to additional aid is also vital to reduce the risk of people with disabilities and their families falling into greater vulnerability or poverty.

“Many people with disabilities depend on services that have been suspended and may not have enough money to stockpile food and medicine or afford the extra cost of home deliveries,” she added.

Globally, an estimated one billion people – roughly 15 percent of the world’s population – live with some form of disability, according to WHO, which is leading the fight to halt further spread of the novel coronavirus disease.

From Devandas’ observation it is clear the ongoing situation is very difficult for people with disabilities—particularly for those living in rural areas. It is against this background that there is a need by the Government and private sector to develop programmes designed to meet the various needs of people with different types of disability so that they can also play an active role in preventing the spread of the virus.

Speaking to B-Metro after donating grocery hampers comprising cooking oil, mealie-meal, sugar beans, sugar, salt, flour, tea leaves, soya chunks and soap, to people living with disabilities, the elderly and child-headed families in Ward 1 Bulilima District Hand in Hand Zimbabwe chief executive officer Felix Tete said the donation was part of their organisation’s efforts to fight hunger in vulnerable communities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This comes as the disabled and the elderly are facing the brunt of the pandemic due to lack of social safety nets. With this in mind, HiH Zim partnered with the Government of Zimbabwe through the Department of Social Welfare — to ensure that grocery hampers reach the intended community members.

“To guarantee transparency and fairness in food distribution, selection of the beneficiaries was jointly conducted by the local leadership and the Department of Social Welfare, while home visits were also done to assess household needs,” said Tete.

He said Bulilima District, which falls in the dry agro-ecological regions of IV and V had lost most of its productive population to neighbouring countries leaving only the elderly and young children.

“Under normal circumstances, the diaspora population send remittances to the rural population. But with neighbouring countries on lockdown and informal trading at a halt, remittances are no longer coming. The situation has been made worse by the fact that most of the people living in neighbouring countries are now coming back home and are in quarantine centres, thus depriving the vulnerable people in the border-line district of the much-needed income,” he said.

According to United Nations Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, Catalina Devandas, support like that by HiH Zim was basic for their survival, adding that States must take additional social protection measures to guarantee the continuity of support in a safe manner throughout the crisis.

“Access to additional aid is also vital to reduce the risk of people with disabilities and their families falling into greater vulnerability or poverty.

“Many people with disabilities depend on services that have been suspended and may not have enough money to stockpile food and medicine or afford the extra cost of home deliveries,” she added.

Globally, an estimated one billion people — roughly 15 percent of the world’s population — live with some form of disability, according to WHO, which is leading the fight to halt further spread of the novel coronavirus disease.

From Devandas’ observation it is clear the ongoing situation is very difficult for people with disabilities — particularly for those living in rural areas. It is against this background that there is a need by the Government and private sector to develop programmes designed to meet the various needs of people with different types of disability so that they can also play an active role in preventing the spread of the virus.

 

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