Weekly round up - 18 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.
- Last week we launched our emergency appeal to raise vital funds for our COVID-19 work. The response from our supporters so far has been wonderful. We are so grateful to everyone for their continued generosity and belief in our mission during this time of crisis.
- This week we will host a virtual team meeting for all ADD staff across our 6 country locations as well as a virtual trustee meeting to review our COVID-19 response work.
- The World Health Assembly is being hosted today and tomorrow and is the key decision-making body of the World Health Organization. Alongside key allies from the disability movement, we will be lobbying for the inclusion of disabled people in all COVID-19 responses.
- We have created data templates to facilitate our country teams to collect rapid, comparable and specific evidence to support disabled people during this critical time.
- As well as distressing fatality rates, COVID-19 is likely to cause a spike in the number of disabled people worldwide. As well as delivering emergency response work, we are starting to shift our organisational lens to consider how we will operate in the post-COVID-19 world and the longer-term impact on our work. Looking at key issues of inclusive education, violence against disabled women and girls and livelihoods, we will collectively explore challenges and opportunities.
The situation continues to get worse with the infection and death rate rising. There is a shortage of testing in the country. We need at least 20,000 daily tests but are currently only hitting around 4,000. The Health Minister has said that the situation is very alarming. We are also hearing stories of many people with non-COVID-19 related health conditions such as kidney disease or cancer, struggling to access medical services which is also causing many fatalities. Our response continues to be significant. Over 12,000 persons with disabilities have now received emergency supplies. Supported by CAFOD, we have distributed cash and sanitation support to an additional 575 members of disabled persons organisations. The government has launched emergency financial relief for 5 million families most at risk. We are working with our disability activist partners to make sure that disabled people in the most precarious economic situations are included in this initiative.
The Cambodia situation seems on paper the best of all country teams. The government are reporting no new cases, and that everyone has recovered and are back at home with still no reported deaths in the country. On paper, this looks fantastic. But there is hearsay that this is not the case, but the national funeral rates show no increase so we are cautiously optimistic. The government have not yet implemented the state of emergency powers recently passed. However, we are seeing some crackdowns on dissenting opposition voices, which will we continue monitor. While the medical crisis of COVID-19 isn't as urgent as other countries, the economic impact is being felt and will have long term repercussions. The lockdown has impacted many disabled people in fragile economic situations and the closure of garment factories due to lack of raw materials and cancelled orders from the US and EU will also have a long term impact.
We very sadly lost a dear colleague from our inclusive education programme last week and are still trying to find out the details of what has happened. This tragic news has hit the team and brought home the realities of the situation. The situation continues to deteriorate in Sudan with news cases and deaths. Not enough people are being tested, and so we are concerned the problem is bigger than the stats suggest. All borders are closed, and the curfew extended for 2 weeks. The government and INGOs continue to distribute food and emergency supplies to 850,000 people, including those dependent on fragile incomes. Some people have received a monthly-cash-relief stipend worth around $9 US dollars. UNICEF and WHO have distributed education and communication materials to remote areas. Darfur is a particular focus of response efforts because of concerns about the fragility of the health system there, the number of displaced people and ongoing conflict. ADD Sudan are still waiting for funders to approve us reallocating project funding to COVID-19 response work. We continue to talk weekly with other INGOs and are working with Sightsavers on targeting key ministries for an inclusive response, especially around income generation and education. We took part in an online meeting last week with the US embassy to discuss a new inclusive education curriculum for Sudan. We continue to be in daily contact with disability leaders, supporting them in their advocacy and community awareness work. Disability activists have been lobbying the Ministry of Health via social media to have a sign language interpreter at all news briefings. Yesterday's conference was the first to have one. It is great to see the movement continuing to mobilise and make life-saving interventions.
There has been no new official data released on the COVID-19 spread in Tanzania since the error in the governments testing methods were revealed. Testing is primarily happening in the capital, and people are concerned that there is no mass testing. Many INGO expatriate specialists are leaving the country. Economically the situation is worsening and we also have to worry about people dying from not having food. Our key focus is 'collaboration' and working with disability activists, INGO partners and governments to coordinate disability responses. Making sure disabled people are included and participate equally is challenging. For example, in our work supporting disabled women, we find that many non-disabled women are often more economically comfortable and so have access to technology such as Skype and Zoom. We must be creative in making sure women with disabilities are not left out of critical conversations.
The situation has changed over the past week, with new cases being identified primarily in truck drivers arriving from Kenya and Tanzania. The Government has now closed the borders except for those testing negative. Last week the focus of the NGO community was less on the COVID-19 response and more on the displacement of people from the landslides and floods. Almost 6,000 people were displaced and now living in empty school buildings. We know through our DPO networks that 165 persons with disabilities are in those numbers. An assessment team visited the area last week to provide relief items – food and bedding. We are conducting our own assessment of the 165 persons with disabilities to understand what their most urgent needs are. We received confirmation from the National Lottery and Community Fund in the UK to re-purpose some of the programme funding to focus on COVID-19 response and safeguarding work in Uganda. We will move to implement these, including plans to increase the scope of radio programmes raising awareness and information on the COVID-19 situation and its impact on persons with disabilities.