Weekly round up - 1 June 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.
In the dark days of COVID-19, there are moments of joy as well and this was one for us as we hosted our first-ever all-staff Zoom meeting! We shared updates from our 6 country teams and for the first time connected altogether. It was wonderful to see so many ADD family faces. Inspiring, moving, hopeful. We are in tough times but the spirit of ADD and those who support us is even tougher. Our wonderful Bangladesh Country Director, Shafiqul Islam summed up the mood of the call perfectly, “This is my family, this is our family. In solidarity.”
We also welcome Baroness Sugg’s (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for DFID) comments in the House of Lords last week on COVID-19 and applaud her moral leadership: ‘People with disabilities and older people are more at risk of contracting and dying of COVID-19, because of underlying health conditions and existing barriers, which have been intensified by the crisis. As well as the increased risk of contracting the illness, people with disabilities, older people and other marginalised groups will experience secondary impacts, such as decreased access to services. We are engaging internationally to push for greater explicit consideration of and support to marginalised people.'
Last week our CEO, Jimmy Innes took part in the IDA Facebook Live, watch it again here.
The situation in Bangladesh continues to be of primary concern. A COVID-19 related death is recorded each hour. The Eid holidays at the end of Ramadan prompted thousands to visit family across the country, and there is concern that this will have accelerated spread of the disease. There are only 49 testing centres in the country that take 3 to 4 days to provide results. There are long queues outside the centres all day. In terms of our response, so far nearly 13,500 disabled people have received support either from the government, NGOs or individuals. Cyclone Amphan hit last week, and we are currently conducting a needs assessment as we have some funding and may be able to support any disabled people affected. The government is providing emergency grants to 5 million families. Our disability activist partners are working to make sure their members are included on the list of those to receive support.
We are concerned that Bangladesh is heading towards a very bad situation. The number of cases and deaths is increasing.
The stats are not giving us anything very hopeful. Even in these circumstances government are reducing lockdown measures. One of our DPO members has tested positive for COVID-19.
There has been little change in the Cambodian situation over the last seven days, with still no COVID-19 related deaths’ recorded. We remain cautiously optimistic, and as per government advice, have reopened the office while adhering to social distancing. Whilst Cambodia currently seems to have mitigated the public health damage of COVID-19 the economic fallout could be devastating. Key tourist, garment and service industries are all being impacted and this will have ongoing repercussions. The IMF are predicting an economic contraction that would take us back 20 years and impact millions. This week we our starting our new project addressing gender-based violence against women and girls with disabilities, including in the context of COVID-19 when the risks and likelihood of violence and abuse are higher.
In Sudan, there is growing concern about the impact of COVID-19 on food security. All four-core dimensions of security - availability, access, utilisation and stability – are coming under tremendous pressure, and this could have extremely harrowing consequences long term. Desert locusts also pose a threat to food security and livelihoods. Sick people are not going to hospital even when they need treatment because of stigma, and some have been turned away from hospitals. 80% of Sudanese people are to get cash support through the UN World Food Programme (WFP). We are in contact with WFP representatives to ensure disabled people are included, and have engaged disabled people’s organisation’s to work on the coordination.
The situation in Uganda has changed dramatically. Numbers have almost doubled this week. As the testing has increased so has the number of confirmed cases. For the first time there are 7 medical workers that have also tested positively. Despite this public transport and certain schools have reopened. Over the last week, the situation for our disability activist partners has become more challenging. The prolonged lockdown has increased the expectations and needs of members of disabled people’s organisations, and it is very challenging to meet all the requests for help. The flooding in Rwenzori has continued to complicate matters, and we had the very sad news that a person with a disability, his wife and two children drowned in the floods. We are continuing to co-ordinate with all our DPO partners to provide support in the COVID-19 response.
There is still no testing mechanism in Tanzania, and no official updates on the progression of COVID-19 in the country. Students are going back to university and some people are behaving like COVID-19 is over. There is growing concern that the COVID-19 case numbers are much higher but we simply don’t have the data. We have seen four blind people die in our community. People are coming under tremendous pressure caught between the health crisis of COVID-19 and the economic fallout. People can not stay at home. We will see more people dying of hunger than from COVID-19. Along with other INGO partners we have created a ‘Disability inclusive COVID-19 Coordination’ group to work collaboratively to secure funding to deliver disability inclusive responses. We are working now to co-ordinate this work across the country, at the district level, working with our DPO partners.