Weekly round up - 27 April 2020.
Each week we will be sharing a round-up of the picture from our country teams as they mobilise to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. Our work during this time has four goals:
1. Life Saving Information. Ensuring disabled people receive accessible and accurate information on how to protect themselves and their families.
2. Social Support. Identifying people with disabilities most at risk during lockdowns and ensuring necessary supplies – like food, water, medicine – are safely delivered. Utilising remote peer-to-peer support mechanics to reach those most isolated.
3. Access To Medical Support. Ensuring disabled people have equal access to COVID-19 testing and treatment services.
4. Long Term Protection. Supporting powerholders to create inclusive alternative livelihood options for disabled people and implement emergency social protection schemes.
Rates of infection and deaths continue to increase, with the virus spreading fast. 59 out of 64 districts now have confirmed cases. Several Covid-19 outbreak clusters are building, including the capital Dhaka which if not contained, could overwhelm response services. This is creating a lot of anxiety for residents. Two hundred garment factories have reopened, primarily to fulfil international orders. There are concerns about safety measures for workers and the communities surrounding factories. Widespread social and religious stigma is causing discrimination towards Covid-19 patients and their family members. Relief distribution systems are failing to avoid large gatherings congregating at collection points. The government has announced emergency financial support packages, but this is mostly for businesses, and there is not enough provision for people with disabilities. The economic picture is bleak – increased unemployment and low production – causing some to speculate about a future near-famine situation. ADD staff and disability activist partners remain safe. There are some challenges with remote working and connectivity issues, but the teams can meet regularly and continue to implement response plans. So far over 4,000 members of Disabled Person’s Organisations have received emergency support from the government, civil society and their communities. The biggest lesson we are learning is once again that disability activists and their organisations are a lifeline for disabled people. Where activists and organisations exist, disabled people are better off. Where they don’t exist, disabled people are left behind and their suffering and isolation compounded.
According to official reports, the situation is stabilising in Cambodia. Still, out on the streets, people don’t believe this is the actual picture, and there is a growing sense of worry about what is yet to come. A State of Emergency bill is going through its last legislative review step – through the King's Council – before being implemented. It is unlikely to be blocked and not clear how long it will be in place for. The team continue to work on adapting project plans to re-align with our Covid-19 priorities. Our primary goal remains keeping women and girls with disabilities alive. We are working on putting together survival packs –rice, tinned food, dried fish, sanitizer, and mobile/tablets so that disabled women can connect and receive support and accessible information about the crisis - together and have them distributed.
There are signs of some hope in Uganda, with the only reported new Covid-19 cases coming from inter-state truck drivers arriving from Tanzania and Kenya. There are no further reports of internally transmitted cases, and still no reported deaths from Covid-19. The staff are all well and coping. We are monitoring government relief deliveries to make sure disabled people are not forgotten. Disabled people could not access a food distribution last week near Jinja, towards the east of the country. The supplies that were earmarked for disabled people are still currently in storage. We are working with our partners to organise safe transport to get it out to the people who need it. We are continuing our radio talk programmes to share disability-inclusive information on Covid-19. We are working on solutions to ensure people with hearing impairments get access to the same messaging – this is primarily happening through WhatsApp groups.
Testing is being ramped up in Tanzania, and hospitals are starting to become overcrowded, which is causing unrest. We hear a lot of discrimination related to Covid-19. People are not being given equal access to treatment or denied medical services. Last week we lost a dear friend and activist partner, Rehema Darueshi who had pneumonia and was turned away from the hospital. This was an extremely painful loss for the team and our community. We are doubling our efforts to ensure that more lives are protected. The INGO community is mobilising to respond collectively. We are seeing groups emerge around thematic issues. The government has given $20 million for education work. We are inputting on how this funding gets spent to achieve inclusive learning. We are in regular contact with our DPO partners via WhatsApp groups sharing information, requests for support and data gathering. A group of women Chief Executives met last week with the Ministry to discuss a gender response to Covid-19 and protecting women. They have given us the go-ahead to start sharing public materials.
Sudan has a very fragile health system, and there are now Covid cases in 9 out of 18 states. There are reports that people are avoiding going to hospital due to stigma. The government does not have the capacity to conduct community check-ups to get an accurate number of infected people. The Minister of Health is afraid that the health system could collapse. Thirty health workers from one centre are currently receiving treatment for Covid-19 because of a lack of protective aids. Prices for basic goods are rising. There is some unrest growing in areas of Darfur, which is hindering humanitarian support services to marginalised people there. According to the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene, only about 23% of people in Sudan have access to basic hygiene services (soap and water). We are monitoring all Covid-19 responses from the government and development actors to ensure they are inclusive. We are in daily contact with our disability activist partners through phone calls or WhatsApp. Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs) are producing accessible information materials (short videos, audio messages or written materials) that are being circulated to the disabled people in their communities. DPOs are also partnering with other INGOs on community awareness campaigns.