December 3rd marks the International Day of Persons with Disabilities. This year, the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the isolation and exclusion of people with disabilities.
Humanity & Inclusion teams are trained to support people with disabilities in responding to crisis, but Covid-19 has presented unique challenges. During the pandemic, Humanity & Inclusion has continued to work with people with disabilities to:
Improve access to health services
Essential health services – that are already insufficient in poor countries - have become even harder for people with disabilities to access due to Covid-19 restrictions or medical resources being allocated to treating people with the virus. Without access to the care they need, people with disabilities can see their health status worsening, risking complications and additional permanent difficulties or reduced functional ability.
Humanity & Inclusion has launched programs to continue rehabilitation services for people with disabilities, including support for a virtual tele-rehabilitation platform to provide physical therapy sessions in Rwanda and organizing 1,000 online rehabilitation sessions for patients in Nepal.
Raise awareness about Covid-19
People with disabilities are often left out of campaigns raising awareness of Covid-19. Information leaflets are not adapted for people who are blind and many awareness resources are only distributed in hospitals, which are not always accessible to people with disabilities.
Humanity & Inclusion conducted a study in Ethiopia which found that 40% of adults and 45% of children with disabilities did not have access to public information on Covid-19 that they could understand. In some countries, Humanity & Inclusion has launched radio campaigns and TV campaigns in sign language that are accessible to people with disabilities.
Promote inclusion and reduce marginalization
People with disabilities are facing isolation and exclusion as social support services and networks - including personal assistance like caregivers - are disrupted. They may have difficulties carrying out daily activities such as showering and using the restroom without assistance.
In some countries, lockdowns have led to dramatic consequences, where people with disabilities are unable to access food and basic supplies.
The risk of violence to children and adults with disabilities is routinely three to four times higher than for those without disabilities. In the current circumstances, public restrictions, self-isolation of households and disruption of community life may lead to increased violence towards people with disabilities. In Kenya, Humanity & Inclusion received reports of authorities exerting violent acts towards people with disabilities who were on their way home after the curfew because police considered that they did not want to abide by the law.
Combat economic hardships
Covid-19 measures and restrictions have brought the global economy to a standstill. People with disabilities - who are more likely to be poor, unemployed and to have low education - are disproportionately affected by this economic shock.
In Nepal and Madagascar, Humanity & Inclusion meets many people with disabilities who are eating less because they have lost their income and have limited access to food. In Haiti, 65% of respondents to an Humanity & Inclusion survey said that the economic support they normally receive has been greatly disrupted by the pandemic.
So far, Humanity & Inclusion has distributed assistance for basic needs to 360,000 people worldwide during the Covid-19 pandemic.