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Covid-19 Update-4

A disability activist in Bangladesh

Covid-19: Update.

A weekly round-up from our programmes.

Weekly round up - 11 May 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.

Global update.

Our global advocacy work to ensure a disability-inclusive COVID-19 response and raise the voices of disability activists continues. Key highlights include:

  • We have submitted two written evidences to the government’s ‘International Development Committee’ inquiry into the UK international development response to COVID-19. In particular we have worked to amplify the message that development actors must work in partnership with DPOs, and to highlight the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities in the developing world.
  • Disability activist partner Ummy Mkenda from Tanzania, took part in an emergency senior-level DFID roundtable to share the latest news on the impact that COVID-19 is having in the global south. Ummy passionately represented the disability movement using her powerful voice to call for more support, partnership and attention at the local level if we are to turn the tide on this pandemic.
  • Our Director of Policy and Influencing, Mosharraf Hossain, took part in a Facebook LIVE event with the  International Disability Alliance. He talked about disability-inclusive COVID-19 responses particularly concerning the abuse and violence disabled women and girls may face in lockdown contexts.
  • Along with other expert colleagues from the global disability movement we spoke to Devex about how to ensure a disability-inclusive response to COVID. Read the article here.
  • We caught up with Rebecca, ADD's Head of Finance in Uganda, who since being on lockdown has visited the home of every disabled person in her community to make sure no one is left behind. To quote Rebecca, despite the difficulties we are all facing, "I feel so happy that in the future, we are going to make more lives better than what they are now.” Watch the video here.
  • We also caught up with Vicent Ngabiranoo, a disability activist partner in Uganda. Hear first hand how #COVID19 is impacting communities of disabled people and what activists are doing to protect lives. Watch the video here

Bangladesh.

The situation is getting worse rapidly with infection rate increasing fast. We are heading towards 15,000 cases. There are growing concerns about how bad and how long this will last. There are still only 39 testing centres in the country, results are taking a long time to come through, and we are hearing reports of people dying in the interim. Despite this, the government has decided to relax the shutdown from May 10 with some shops and offices re-opening. The opening of the garment factories remains a significant concern. Many factories are not set up to facilitate social distancing and many of the workers live in the slums which are densely populated. An outbreak could be devastating. So, concern is everywhere but DPOs are still responding very well. 876 members from various DPOs have received food aid, cash support and sanitization materials from the government and others. DPOs are still very vibrant in communicating with local government and other agencies. We are still keeping good contact and communication with all our DPO partners.

Sudan.

COVID-19 cases are emerging all over Sudan; there is increasing concern about a large scale spread, especially in conflict-affected areas. The government has no capacity to carry out community testing, some PPE is starting to come in, but the stigma is growing. Videos are circulating on social media showing conflict between villages – the burning of houses and markets – where people infected with COVID-19 are rumoured to be. Information from UNICEF and WHO is being shared over mobile networks to counter this and spread accurate updates. ADD Sudan has circulated our COVID-19 plans with other INGOs and is an active partner on INGO forums sharing information and seeking to create a coordinated approach to disability inclusion. We have produced COVID-19 information sheets and are in daily contact with DPO leaders. DPOs are submitting weekly updates on their response work, including, food supplies and sanitary kits delivered. The DPOs have formed 2 WhatsApp groups where they share information. They are also working to ensure all key information and updates reach local members who might not have smartphones. They are sharing messages on local radio shows and even travelling around villages making public announcements from their cars using microphones.

Tanzania.

The Tanzanian government has been quiet for some time. The official line is that they are undertaking a deeper analysis of the situation after international reports circulated last week that there are serious technical errors with our COVID-19 testing kits. There is concern amongst civil society, INGOs and global donors that the response is not robust enough. We are not really in a proper lockdown with markets still operating, and government workers are travelling to offices. Those who are observing the lockdown are feeling the economic impact which is adversely affecting people with disabilities who are in informal employment. ADD Tanzania response is still focused on collaborating with other INGOs so that we can amplify our impact. Together we have developed a 4 point framework to focus our advocacy demands and emergency activities: 1. Control and prevention 2. Response and service provision 3. Impact assessment and mitigation 4. Coordination and sustainability. We are making sure that we include government ministries and DPOs in the development of all these plans so that we are working in a joined-up way. A challenge for the disability movement in Tanzania is that many disabled people do not have access to the internet or smartphones, in rural areas where electricity is patchy, there is sometimes not even radio access. We are trying to find solutions for how we keep in touch and connected with rural disabled people.

Uganda.

COVID-19 numbers are still rising, the government has started to run out of testing kits, and there are delays in procuring new ones which is causing people to panic. We are hearing many stories that people are now experiences issues with accessing food and that many people ill with other conditions are dying because they can’t access hospitals. We see some strikes because of the situation. In the last 4 days, there has been severe flooding that has particularly hit a low-cost housing area where many disabled people live. All these families have now been displaced and are now in temporary camps. We have been getting distressed calls, including from one visually impaired man who had not eaten for two days. We worked with DPOs to get him food and are now coordinating with other INGOs on providing emergency solutions. DPOs have highlighted the lack of psycho-social support services as a critical issue as the crisis continues to take a psychological toll. This is a complicated issue that we are in consultation with other partners on how to progress. We are in constant touch with government district task forces and DPOs to coordinate responses and ensure the government emergency relief provisions reach disabled people in the community.