Covid worsens plight of people living with disabilities in Zimbabwe

By Nyaradzo Nyere

Losing both limbs did not stop Given Tom from using his talent as a painter. 

Tom uses his mouth to make amazing paintings and before the advent of Covid-19 last year, he used to earn decent money from his craft. 

“I used to have a lot of clients before the pandemic, but now l am just getting a few that buy my paintings because people have less money to spend on things like paintings,” he said. 

Tom is among thousands of people living with disabilities in Zimbabwe, who are struggling to make ends meet due to the disruptions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The Zimbabwean government has struggled to provide social safety nets for the vulnerable, including people living with disabilities and this has left many without enough food or shelter.

Owen Dhliwayo from the Alliance of Community Based Organisations, said failure by government to render any assistance to people living with disabilities ( PWDs), following the outbreak of Covid-19 had worsened the plight of many.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has been devastating to the fundamentals of our socio-economic set-up but its impact is determined by the circumstances of our society in the context of poverty and social inequalities,” Dhliwayo said.

“PWDs are currently experiencing the pandemic differently from other sectors of our society, and the grants can go a long in alleviating their current plight.”

Dhliwayo said most measures put in place to mitigate the effects of the pandemic ignored issues that were peculiar to PWDs.

“Some lockdown measures are not PWDs sensitive,” he said.

“Most of them are in the informal sector and the sector has been hugely affected by the current lockdown measures. 

“The banning of gatherings has affected PWDs because they receive food aid from humanitarian organisations.”

“PWDs should be exempted from the need to produce exemption letters so as to enable their access to services,” he said. 

According to the United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy, the rights of persons with disabilities are central to the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of Leaving No one Behind. 

The International Disability Alliance and the World Health Organisations say persons with disabilities are more likely to face barriers during a humanitarian crisis, unless some practical solutions are availed to effectively address the range of risks. 

A United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation study showed that income for persons with disabilities shrunk by 50 percent from $43 to $13 per month during the Covid-19 period.

Maria Ribeiro, the UN resident coordinator in Zimbabwe, expressed concern about the impact of Covid-19 on people living with disabilities.

“I have also noted with concern, the growing number of Covid-19 cases and the inevitable impact of the pandemic on the socio-economic, health and general well-being of persons with disabilities in both urban and rural areas,” Ribeiro said.

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