WOMEN with disabilities (WWDs) have been the most hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic as government did not consider their needs in implementing the national lockdown to help curb the spread of the disease, a study conducted in Masvingo urban reveals.
BY TATENDA CHITAGU
President Emmerson Mnangagwa on March 30 imposed a national lockdown, restricting movement of people, banning public gatherings of more than 50 people, among others.
While the lockdown has hit hard the populace that lives from hand to mouth, it is vulnerable groups, particularly WWDs, who are bearing the brunt, according to the study done by the Institute for Community Development (ICOD).
Titled The Impact of COVID-19 on Women With Disabilities in Masvingo Urban, the study found out that they are more vulnerable now than they were before the outbreak of the global pandemic.
“Among people with disabilities (PWDs), women with disabilities are more vulnerable to diverse disasters than their male counterparts. The WWDs’ physical deformities, coupled with their social roles as mothers, exacerbate their untold suffering due to disasters and COVID-19 is no exception.
“As elsewhere, the lockdown in Masvingo urban is negatively impacting WWDs’ access to health services and more specifically access to sexual reproductive health (SRH). The presence of the structural barriers to their access to health services worsens their conditions when compared to men with disabilities as well as able-bodied females,” the study revealed.
ICOD co-director Talent Maposa said the restricted movement of people and public transport disrupted the flow of critical services and provisions for WWDs.
“Restricted movements also put WWDs at a greater risk of contracting the coronavirus.
Confinement in houses never allows them to manage the social distancing like the able-bodied people. Moreover, WWDs’ dependence on assistance does not permit them to dictate the safer methods of reducing the chances of being infected. To make matters worse, WWDs’ lack of access to COVID-19 information has made them susceptible both to infections and suffering from increased deprivation and marginalisation, yet the Constitution guarantees their rights and freedoms,” he said.
There is currently limited or no readily available clinically-researched and documented data which reveals the co-relationship between disability and contracting coronavirus.
ICOD recommends that the government and non-governmental organisations should ensure that quarantine centres have adequate amenities to cater for WWDs with complicated physical and biological conditions. Vibrant awareness campaigns to educate guardians, WWDs and their caregivers on how best to reduce chances of increasing infections in households should be implemented, while appropriate healthcare provisions should be made available for WWDs especially their SRH during the lockdown, the study stated, adding that the government should consider a downscaled focus on disabilities moving away from the system of putting PWDs in one bracket.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, 7% of Zimbabwe’s population lives with disabilities. Furthermore, UN Women says one in every five women in Zimbabwe lives with a disability and the number is estimated to surpass that figure.
The common disabilities in Zimbabwe include Down’s Syndrome, dwarfism, visual and hearing impairment, dumb and cretinism.