An organisation representing the blind has launched a petition to the United Nations and governments to ensure that people with disabilities are not left out of COVID-19 responses.
The petition is part of Sightsavers’ Equal World Campaign which seeks to amplify the voices of people with disabilities and highlight the denial of rights that they face globally.
Senior Programme Manager at Sightsavers Zimbabwe Peter Bare said, “As the full effects of the lockdown begins to set in, the Zimbabwe government is still to honour its promise to cushion the plight of vulnerable groups, especially people with disabilities.”
“The World Health Organization has called for extra measures to be put in place for people with disabilities in countries’ COVID-19 responses, yet this remains to be done in Zimbabwe.”
Sightsavers says people with disabilities are reporting discrimination in being deprioritised to receive health care; not being given vital information in accessible formats; denial of essential personal support; increased risk of contracting COVID-19 in institutions and barriers for women and girls who wish to claim their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
The acting executive director of the National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH) Lovemore Rambiyawo said, “While Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Labour, Public Service and Social Welfare has to be commended for working to recruit 80 social worker interns to assist in the registration of COVID-19 beneficiaries, many people with disabilities feel the initiative has come rather late.”
“Disability organisations continue to be inundated with calls from people with disabilities who are failing to access food assistance.”
“A full-scale survey would need to be done to determine the impact of COVID-19 on the livelihoods of persons with disabilities,” Rambiyawo went on.
The Zimbabwe government promised to disburse ZWL$ 600 million for the vulnerable group of the society to deal with the effects of lockdown but the beneficiaries are yet to benefit.
Sightsavers’ Campaign Manager of Equal World, Natasha Kennedy said, “We need the UN and member states to step-up their efforts to make this happen. This cannot be put on the backburner. We are in an international crisis and there are up to 1 billion people with disabilities who are trying to survive without the recognition or support they need.”