The novel Coronavirus is one disease that the world has come to live with, in the past six months. Of great importance is its impact on all areas of life irrespective of one’s physical being.
People living with disabilities are experiencing even more difficulty in their daily routines.
Disability is one of the challenges that make an individual depend on another and this comes in various forms.
Nigeria has a population of over 200 million people, with about 28 million people living with disabilities. In each state, about 15 percent of the population is said to live with one form of disability or the other.
COVID-19 is characterized by social distancing, hand washing, and the use of face masks.
The use of a face mask is seen as the easy one out of the various preventive measures for a physically challenged person.
However, for these groups of people, the visually impaired, the deaf, mute, physically challenged, and the leper, what comes first is survival.
The times have changed so much that the new life which seems normal for the physically fit is a big task for the physically challenged.
In Lagos, there are 7000 registered non-governmental organizations under the umbrella body called Joint Association of People Living with Disability. These organizations work with the Lagos state government to ensure that the palliatives get to this group of people.
Unfortunately, some still do not feel included.
Uri Ngozi Chukwuka is the Founder of Empathy Women Driven Initiative International (EDWIIN).
She has lived a purposeful life putting smiles on the faces of these special people. She cannot comprehend the way discrimination plays out now for persons living with disabilities.
The basic things of life are farther from them now that COVID- 19 is about social distancing.
Housing, Shelter, and Food is a challenge for them more so the majority of them fall under the poverty line. They form a significant part of the 85 percent of Nigerians living under the poverty line
How does someone with a visual impairment know who is close or far away in complying with social distancing? An assistant usually guides their movement. Is this assistant free of COVID-19?
The use of facemasks is prescribed as a necessity for droplets not to fall on one another during speech.
Unfortunately, survival comes first for the majority of them. The use of facemasks is secondary.
Also, hygiene in their community is extremely low. They need hand sanitizers, running taps for handwashing, and so on. The issue of disability hygiene is not seen as essential by many who go to their communities.
For COVID-19, hygiene is top on the list when it comes to prevention. So, to reduce the high outbreak among persons living with disabilities, sanitary materials are a priority for them.
A visually impaired man, Olawoyin Emmanuel Pepsy resides in Ikorodu, a suburb of Lagos, Southwest Nigeria. He understands what COVID-19 all is about. Also, he knows it is an enemy that cannot be seen and one must be careful.
For him, the worst part of the COVID-19 challenge is the financial aspect. Currently, moving from one place to another in search of food is such a difficult task for Olawoyin.
To him, a palliative from the government is a right, but it is not coming as expected.
Put in his words, “Well for me, my means of livelihood has been taken away from me by Coronavirus. So much so, collecting palliative which is supposed to be one’s right is making one look to me like a beggar”.
The situation demands collective giving back to society as the government alone cannot do it.
Ihuoma Sussan Kelechi is a 41-year-old Poliomyelitis survivor living in Ojota Lagos, Southwest Nigeria. She understands the Coronavirus to be a respiratory infection that has no cure for now.
She is the first of five children who all live with their parents. Not having any income is overwhelming for her.
“EDWIIN was the first organization that sent foodstuff, beverages, and all. After that, the Lagos state government gave relief packs to persons with disabilities.
“For an average family like ours, we depend on our ability to step out to earn a living. For more than one month, we’ve all been indoors, if not that I was part of the volunteers who distributed the relief packs from Lagos state government, ” Ihuoma said.
Despite the many challenges confronting her, Susan says she is staying safe, maintaining social distancing to ensure that this pandemic reduces to the barest minimum.
At this special time in the history of the world, Nigeria is facing the enemy called COVID-19, just like all the other nations are finding the best possible way out of the pandemic. Certain palliatives, even beyond COVID -19, are important for the well-being of all.
The government of Nigeria at federal, state, and local levels should pull data from families with people living with disabilities.
This sheds light on what the government needs to know about providing for each family aside from those living in government camps. There are other needs like catering for those with mental disabilities, intellectual disability, and more.