Sightsavers Zimbabwe is launching a petition calling for the United Nations to meet the needs of people with disabilities who are facing the worst effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The global petition is supported by the National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH), an umbrella body for and of Disabled Persons’ 0rganisations (DPOs) in Zimbabwe.
The lives of people with disabilities are being put at greater risk due to a lack of action from governments around the world to meet their needs during the pandemic, according to campaigners.
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.
Peter Bare, the Senior Programme Manager at Sightsavers Zimbabwe 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.
“The National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped and Sightsavers Zimbabwe would like to reiterate their call for holistic inclusion of people with disabilities in our country’s COVID-19 response process.”
The discrimination people with disabilities are reporting includes 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.
Lovemore Rambiyawo, the acting executive director of the National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH) 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.”
People with multiple impairments, who constitute 13% of the disability population in Zimbabwe, have high dependency needs and require extra protective measures to ensure their inclusion in the country’s COVID-19 response. This calls for a high level of coordination, commitment, and COVID-19 awareness among all those involved with supporting people with multiple impairments, such as assistants, caregivers, family members and people with disabilities themselves. People with multiple impairments will need comprehensive assistance in maintaining social distance, accessing hand washing facilities, using sanitisers, washing hands, and putting on of personal protective equipment.
Some wheelchair users, who constitute a significant proportion of people with physical impairments (31% of people with disabilities in Zimbabwe have a physical impairment), also fall into the category of people who have high dependency needs. In all cases, all parties should act collaboratively and agree on the adoption of protective measures, including testing, to avoid the risk of spreading COVID-19 to one another.
Natasha Kennedy, Sightsavers’ Campaign Manager of Equal World said: “The disability rights movement is in a strong position to influence the UN right now. Its new Disability Rights framework could ensure the needs of people with disabilities are recognised and met across the entire UN system, including within its emergency health responses.
“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.”
Equal World will collect petition signatures until Wednesday 15th July 2020.
To sign the Equal World petition visit www.sightsavers.org/equalworld
For further details, interviews, photos and case studies contact Sightsavers and NASCOH in the contacts below
About Equal World
Sightsavers campaign Equal World calls on the United Nations and member states to improve the lives of people with disabilities around the world by promoting disability rights and inclusion throughout its work.
The charity has campaigned for disability-inclusive global development since 2013, and in that time has seen significant recognition of disability as a priority issue.
For more information visit: www.sightsavers.org/equalworld
Sightsavers’ vision is of a world where people with disabilities participate equally in society. Sightsavers is an international organisation that works in more than 30 developing countries to prevent avoidable blindness, treat and eliminate neglected tropical disease, and promote the rights of people with disabilities.
In the seven decades since its foundation, Sightsavers has in 30 countries of South Asia and Africa:
Supported more than 1.2 BILLION treatments for neglected tropical diseases
Carried out more than 7.7 million cataract operations to restore sight
Carried out more than 196 million eye examinations
Dispensed more than 4.6 million glasses
Sightsavers Zimbabwe country office can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH) is an umbrella body for disability organisations and voluntary coordinating body for disability organisations in Zimbabwe. NASCOH can be contacted on email@example.com , website: www.nascoh.org.zw.