Today the whole world is engulfed with the pandemic of covid-19 which is undoubtedly affecting the social, economic and political life of every nation of the world, with its consequence effect felt majorly by persons with disabilities across board.
Last week, the United Nation General secretary Antonio Guttres during a briefing at the UN House drew the attention of the world on the need to adequately mainstream issues of persons with disabilities in the fight against the dreaded Covid-19 pandemic. Mr. Guttress made the world to appreciate how this pandemic is affecting over billion people with disabilities as even under normal circumstances, persons with disabilities are less likely to access education, healthcare and income opportunities or participate in the community.
Globally, and Nigeria in particular, it is recognized fact that people with disabilities are more likely to live in poverty, and they experience higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse. The pandemic is intensifying these inequalities — and producing new threats. Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a heavy blow on citizens with disabilities. Under normal day, PWDs struggle for almost everything be it public infrastructures, information, rehabilitation, healthcare services, inclusion and participation in government programs and activities, let alone implement basic hygiene measures.
Aware that we were compelled to wage 18 years struggle for the passage of the Discrimination against Persons with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act 2018 which President Mohammadu Buhari signed more than 15 months now, but without commit to its implementation. Thus, the Presidential task force on Covid-19 is finding it difficult to implement even as organisations of persons with disabilities have several efforts to draw the attention of the leadership of PTF on Covid-19 without success.
Recognizing also that despite the institutional role the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development is saddled with in addressing the issues and concerns of persons with disabilities, the Ministry is yet to come out with Disability Sensitive Policies and program that will address the vulnerability nature of persons with disabilities during and after the covid-19 pandemic.
Worried that more than 25million persons with disabilities in Nigeria are one of the most excluded groups in our society and are among the hardest hit in this crisis in terms of health and Economic impact. This global crisis of COVID-19 is deepening pre-existing inequalities, exposing the extent of exclusion and highlighting that work on disability inclusion has not been addressed by the Nigeria government.
In view of the current situation, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities joins the global call for an integrated approach that will ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind in COVID-19 response and recovery. As the most vulnerable group, CCD calls for prioritizing disability issues at the centre of the response, ensuring inclusion and participation of PWDs during planning and implementation.
All COVID-19 related action must prohibit any form of discrimination based on disability and take into consideration the intersections of gender and age, among other factors. This is imperative to address and prevent barriers that may arise during response and recovery.
To achieve the above highlighted and inline with UN Policy on Covid-19 and PWDs, CCD urge government at all levels to take appropriate measure to:
1. Ensure mainstreaming of disability in all COVID-19 response and recovery plans with targeted actions. This is to ensure that all gaps are close around disability and Covid-19 pandemic.
2. Ensure accessibility of information, facilities, services and programmes in the COVID-19 response and recovery plans.
Accessibility is fundamental to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the immediate health and socio-economic response to COVID-19. If public health information, the built environment, communications and technologies, and goods and services are not accessible, people with disabilities cannot take necessary decisions, live independently and isolate or quarantine safely, or access health and public services on an equal basis with others.
3. Ensure meaningful consultation with and active participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations in all stages of the COVID-19 response and recovery. Persons with disabilities have important contributions to make in tackling the crisis and building the future. Many persons with disabilities have experience of thriving in situations of isolation and alternate working arrangements that can offer models for navigating the current situation. Perspectives and lived experiences of disability contribute to creativity, new approaches and innovative solutions to challenges.
4. Establish accountability mechanisms to ensure disability inclusion in the COVID-19 response. Ensure inclusive investments to support disability-inclusive outcomes. Governments, donors, and other actors need to establish mechanisms to monitor investments to ensure it is reaching persons with disabilities. Disaggregating data by disability is key to ensure accountability.
5. We also call on PTF on Covid-19 pandemic to mandate National Centre for Disease Control to create a dedicated hotline, ambulances, and transport facilities for persons with disabilities to enable them access information and routine medical checkups. The challenge of hunger in disability communities is getting worst by the day, as such priority attention is needed on access to food and other palliatives to ensure they are not left behind in the distribution of relief materials.
On our part CCD, has commenced the implementation on Covid-19 Behavourial Change among Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria. The goal of the project is to minimize the negative impact of Covid-19 among Nigerians with disabilities. The objectives of the intervention are to: raise awareness on Covid-19 among Nigerians with disabilities; enhance access to information and essential services among persons with disabilities; link persons with disabilities to social security interventions of the governments. Part of the activities for the intervention include: Publicity sensitization on Covid-19 and PWDs, establish toll free lines to support PWDs on Covid-19, Convene online discussion, Online Sensitization of PWDs on Covin-19, Online observation of Support to PWDs, Monitor PWDs access to humanitarian support by the government amongst other. We thank our partners: Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), Ford Foundation, Disability Rights Fund, and the Government and good people of the Kingdom of the Netherlands for their support in this pandemic period.
David O. Anyaele
Centre for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD)