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Covid-19 Update-8

A disability activist in Bangladesh

Covid-19: Update.

A weekly round-up from our programmes.

Weekly round up - 15 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.

Global Update

  • The Disability Inclusion Helpdesk provides research and advice to DFID and other UK government departments on disability inclusion. We submitted evidence to the helpdesk from Bangladesh and Uganda of the impact of COVID-19 on disabled people’s organisations. You can read our submission for Bangladesh here, and Uganda here.
  • IDA facebook live sessions: Rose, our Tanzania Country Director was on the panel last week and you can watch her on the IDA Facebook Page here.
  • COVID-19 Gathering evidence. We have produced an ADD COVID-19 Questionnaire to collect rapid, comparable and specific evidence to support DPOs during this critical time.
  • Last week, the WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom warned that whilst the Coronavirus pandemic situation is now improving in Europe, globally it is still worsening. June 12th recorded the most number of new infections in a single day since the pandemic started. So, as we begin to think about easing lockdowns and getting back to a new normal in the UK and Europe, many of the countries where we work are yet to hit their peak of Coronavirus infections. 

Bangladesh.

In every corner of the country - from isolated islands to the city - COVID-19 is everywhere. Last week a few ex-dignitaries died as the infection rate continues to increase. Stigma means families are not claiming dead bodies from the hospitals and authorities. In Dhaka city, 45 COVID-19 hot spots have been identified. The Government has announced a new budget, but it does not include additional provision for people with disabilities – the disability allowance will remain static, with no new provision for livelihood support, therapies or inclusive education. We continue to co-ordinate closely with our networks and activists and are now drafting short recommendations for Parliament for the better inclusion of people with disabilities. We are mobilising all our government contacts with a good understanding of disability inclusion to advocate for this issue. Over the last week 600 DPOs have received food, cash and medicine support from different services. Through support from CAFOD we have also now installed three inclusive handwashing units in communities.

Hand washing unit in Bangladesh
Hand washing unit in Bangladesh

Cambodia.

The COVID-19 situation seems to be under control in Cambodia and the focus is on dealing with the economic fallout. The European Union (EU), its member states and their financial institutions and agencies are mobilising €443 million in grants and loans to work with Cambodia in fighting COVID-19 and mitigating its socio-economic impacts. We have started work on surveying disability activists on how COVID-19 has impacted their work and will be collating evidence over the coming weeks.

Sudan.

Community transmission is now widespread. For the majority of cases, the transmission chain can't be established. We see a chronic shortage of medicine in pharmacies and drugstores. Drugs are being sold on the black market at very high prices beyond the financial capacity of most people. People are struggling to find spaces at hospitals for all illnesses, and we have heard reports of people dying in their cars while travelling between hospitals looking for treatment. Malaria and typhoid outbreaks are widespread. Three members of staff are currently off sick. We are extremely sad to report that one of our team's brother has died from COVID-19. All of the team are grieving for our colleague's loss.

UNICEF and WHO continue to produce Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials, which were made available in different languages. These materials include leaflets, posters, videos, animations and songs that provide information on COVID-19 symptoms, prevention guidelines, and encourage the adoption of positive health practices and recommend staying at home. In addition, UNICEF and partners are mapping religious groups and leaders (Sufi Sheikhs) who have many followers to engage them in raising the awareness and ensuring the behavioural change of the grassroots. The government has set up hotlines for reporting gender-based violence. There is also growing concern about food shortages because of a lack of labourers and transport. 5.5m people may need emergency food in 2020. The government will send cash directly to 80% of families. We continue our usual contact with DPOs, via WhatsApp.

Uganda.

Last week Uganda saw its first reported COVID-19 infections in refugee centres which is concerning. Otherwise, COVID-19 is clustered in two main areas - in the North at the South Sudan border, and in the south at the broader with Tanzania and Burundi. Things are slowly starting to open up again, and many NGOs are returning to their offices. We have had budget approval from the National Lottery to divert funding to COVID-19 safeguarding information and are working on the production of this. The disability movement in Uganda is mourning the loss of an extraordinary activist, Edisa Bangi, who was on the Board of the national umbrella Disabled People’s Organisation, NUDIPU. We send our love and condolences to her family and colleagues. Her legacy will be remembered.

Tanzania.

There is still no official government update on COVID-19 statistics. A new analysis produced by the World Bank reveals the hit to the economy. This is a worrying time for everyone. People with disabilities face the difficult decision of closing their businesses to remain safe at home with their families versus the fear of losing the income they rely on. We are reviewing the government budget to analyse implication for disabled people and continue to work in consortium with other INGOs to coordinate our responses. We are purchasing mobile phones for women disability activists so they can keep in touch with one another and share key updates. And we are continuing to co-ordinate with our DPO partners to do all we can to help ensure that DPOs in Tanzania and leading in the COVID-19 response.