The Covid-19 pandemic affected all categories of people globally, but, a greater number of persons with disabilities who would earn their bread after hard work, and those who alreay depended on good Samaritans and relatives to put food on the table were particularirly hit hard.
Their support in several instances has been halted, leaving them miserable.
In Nyagatare district, Eastern Province, the person with disabilities were not exempted by this challenge.
“Our situation was not good, even before the pandemic hit the world. But the conditions have been worsened by Covid-19 lockdown. People who supported us no longer do it because they were affected; some of them lost their jobs, others saw their business go bankrupt,” Florentine Nyiranzabahimana, a resident of Mashaka village, Rutare cell, Rwemasha sector, Nyagatare district said.
Nyiranzabahimana with hip cartilaginous joint complications said some people with disabilities were not relying on other people to get food, but when the pandemic hit and the lockdown was imposed, they lost their jobs. Most of them do not have food and other basic needs.
The United Nations (UN) says that the persons with disabilities are among the hardest hit by COVID-19. Even under normal circumstances, one billion persons with disabilities worldwide are less likely to access health care, education, employment, and more likely to live in poverty and experience violence.
COVID-19 further worsened this situation, particularly for persons with disabilities in fragile contexts. They face lack of accessible public health information, significant barriers to implement basic hygiene measures, and inaccessible health facilities, according to the UN.
In Rwanda, some well-wishers and non-governmental organizations are already taking measures to alleviate the effects of the pandemic among the persons with disabilities.
Annet Dusabe, an advocate of persons with disabilities in Nyagatare district said that women with disabilities were always facing family violence, but conditions have been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Men who are married to wives with disabilities have got enough time to observe the weaknesses of their partners and this became their weapon to despise them. This has hugely caused domestic violence,” Dusabe said.
Juliet Murekatete, the vice mayor in charge of social affairs in Nyagatare district says that the persons with disabilities are helped by the district like other residents. But those with special problems should report to local authorities to get them solved.
The UN report recommends governments, donors, UN agencies, and other actors to establish accountability mechanisms to monitor investments and ensure disability inclusion in the COVID-19 response, including through the collection and disaggregation of data by disability.
According to Anisie Byukusenge, a volunteer with VSO, said that the latter, in partnership with the Association of Rwandan female persons with disability(UNABU) organization, they trained 20 volunteers who will help to sensitize their neighbors on the rights of people with disability, especially women.
They among others prevent them from experiencing domestic violence.
She said that the training took place in 2019 and in the last 6 months, they trained the community at large in this area of prevention of domestic violence against persons with disabilities.
She further said that, the ultimate goal is to have persons with disabilities coming out to say what they experience regarding domestic violence.
“If someone apply violance against you, stand up and say ‘NO’. Believe me, we cannot reach out to all persons with a disability, but we would wish to have everyone contribute to non-violence,” she said.
Juliet Murekatete, vice mayor in charge of social affairs in Nyagatare district also said that disability does not mean that one should face violence.
“It does not make sense when a child with a disability faces defilement and there is none to denounce it. Sensitization continues and we hope it will bear fruits,” she said.