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COVID-19 lockdown deals double blow for persons with disabilities in Zimbabwe


By Lungelo Ndhlovu 

Out in remote Tombo Village C, Insiza District in south-western Zimbabwe, a family of persons with disabilities is battling to repair damage to their home caused by a hailstorm just before Covid-19 struck last year. 

They are on their own as no one has come forward to assist. 

The plight of the Moyo family is only one illustration of the challenges faced by people with disabilities (PWDs), which were made even more glaring by the pandemic. 

“Most people with disabilities in Zimbabwe depend on well-wishers’ handouts and  others are assisted by family members who fend for them. 

It is during the lockdown that People With Disabilities are more affected as there is no source of food for them, and even lack COVID-19 information,” said  Soneni Gwizi, Ambassador of  Action in Disability and Development International. 

Moyo family… father and mother watch Soul Moyo at the top of the hut which survived the storm, thatching one of their huts destroyed by heavy rains: Picture by Lungelo Ndhlovu

For the Moyo family, the lockdown imposed as a result of COVID-19 added more misery to their health situation and general well-being since they did not have money to buy food or otherwise fend for themselves.

 “I’m unemployed and currently staying at home with my parents,” said Soul, the youngest of the Moyo siblings. 

“My brother, Samuel, looks after a neighbour’s homestead but hasn’t been paid because his boss is based in South Africa and communicated that he can’t travel due to travel restrictions set by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Even before COVID-19 struck, a lot of persons with disabilities in Zimbabwe reported feeling socially isolated and lonely.Their circumstances worsened during the pandemic. 

According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, social isolation has a number of negative effects including poor mental and physical health.

Gwizi confirmed that there was a huge increase in different types of abuses experienced by people living with disabilities in different communities of Zimbabwe. 

“These abuses are never reported because the perpetrators are close family members or bread winners of the victims. Students with disabilities are also affected because the methods of lessons used are not disability compliant to all students with disabilities,” she said.

Accessing online tutorials is a huge challenge for students with disabilities, as the hearing impaired students could not participate in  radio lessons while other students had Information Technology gadgets and data challenges, she added. 

“Most children with disabilities live with elderly caregivers who are not able to assist with technology matters.”

Persons with disabilities who required physiotherapy also suffered due to lockdown measures, Gwizi said.

“There was no transport as service providers were on lockdown, resulting in some failing  to attend physio sessions, which is a must for a person with a disability. 

“However, the social welfare department  and the private sector tried in assisting with food packs distribution,” said the PWD activist.

Due to lack of a register of PWDs in the country, however, the help never reached the majority, Gwizi lamented.

This is the case with the Moyo family, which is still battling to rebuild their homestead. The hailstorm was so massive, they said, it destroyed walls of the buildings. 

“I’m trying to repair the huts that were destroyed by the storm and I’m currently thatching one of the huts that remained, but the problem is I have run out of thatching grass,” said the elder Moyo in an interview. 

He said his family is in dire need of wheelchairs or a cart for mobility. 

“We use a handcart for most of the chores that include fetching wood, water and going to the grinding mill, “ he said.

Soul Moyo with a handcart the family use for household chores. Picture by Lungelo Ndhlovu

Due to communication challenges that were presented during the COVID-19 lockdown, the Moyo family have not made contact with the Civic Protection Unit (CPU), a government department responsible for Disaster Risk Management in Zimbabwe, to assist them. 

“This is a serious issue which needs urgent attention. When I inquired from the leadership of this area as to why the matter wasn’t reported to the CPU, they alluded to the fact of the communication breakdown because of the Covid-19 containment measures. 

“Now that Covid19 measures are being eased, this case will be resolved urgently,” said Andrew Mpofu, Councillor for Insiza Ward 17. 

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