How FAMOD is Fighting the Pandemic in Mozambique
By Cantol Alexandre Pondja
First, we would like to appreciate SAFOD’s efforts in supporting its members in the context of the Covid-19 outbreak. Forum das Associaçöes dos deficientes de Moçambique (FAMOD), as Mozambican DPOs umbrella organization, has also been trying to replicate those efforts amongst its member associations. We set some of the contextual elements of Mozambique and outline ongoing actions as well as the challenges that FAMOD has been facing to secure that persons with disabilities are not left behind in the fight against the Covid-19.
The first Covid-19 case in Mozambique was officially registered on March 22. Since then, the toll of cases has been rising at an increasingly fast pace. As part of the preventive measures/package against the spread of the virus, the President declared a State of Emergency and repeatedly renewed this Declaration to impose restriction measures. Some of the current state of emergency restriction measures include limitations on commercial activities (business must close at 5pm), mandatory use of masks in crowded places, reduced number of passengers in public transport and other specific measures, also described as stage 3 restrictions.
Against this background, in mid-March FAMOD set two internal coordination mechanisms to monitor inclusion of persons with disabilities in the prevention and treatment measures that were taking place. The first coordination mechanism is the DPO Technical Committee, which gathers different DPOs representing different types of impairment and identities. This group meets on a weekly basis to share updates about persons with disabilities and the ongoing inclusion initiatives, and to advise FAMOD on advocacy issues.
Besides, a National Coordination platform was also formed, which is made of FAMOD’s delegates at a national level. Through this group, FAMOD gets to know what the situation of persons with disabilities is all over the country.
FAMOD has been able to advocate at the level of the UN agencies and partners for more inclusive interventions for persons with disabilities in Mozambique.
The main issues that these coordination platforms have been raising include: the lack of accessible information and communication for persons with disabilities, violence against persons with disabilities, social vulnerability and lack of adequate support to cope with the restriction measures, lack of support to access hygiene materials, barriers for children with disabilities to access remote education, and concerns regarding the preparedness of health professionals and facilities to assist persons with disabilities.
Through its affiliates, namely AJODEMO and AMUSAM, FAMOD has also been assisting persons with disabilities with dignity and hygiene kits in the communities. You can see here some images of this community work.
FAMOD has also produced some IEC materials to sensitize persons with disabilities and their families to adopt disability specific prevention measures.
In addition, FAMOD has been invited to lead a newly created Disability Working Group which is a subgroup of the Protection Cluster, a global coordination platform of the United Nations. In this platform, FAMOD has been able to advocate at the level of the UN agencies and partners for more inclusive interventions for persons with disabilities in Mozambique.
FAMOD also received a letter from the Commonwealth Disability Forum of Persons with Disabilities in which they shared the Declaration of Principles on the Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities. In this letter, FAMOD was asked to forward the Declaration to the relevant Government authorities in the context of the response to Covid-19. After having translated the Declaration, FAMOD forwarded it to the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Protection as well as to the Ministry of Health.
FAMOD received a formal response form the Ministry of Gender, Child and Social Protection outlining some measures that had been undertaken to assist persons with disabilities, particularly regarding the allocation of sign language interpreters. As for the Ministry of Health, FAMOD did not receive a formal response.
Furthermore, FAMOD has prepared an advisory note for the Ministry of Health on the inclusion of persons with disabilities. The Ministry of Health committed to release a bylaw based on that note, so that all the Ministry departments adopt the disability inclusion guidelines. The bylaw was released with specific recommendations for all health sectors and other stakeholders. See the document here.
FAMOD also organized a press conference to speak up about the great barriers that persons with disabilities have been facing in this time, which was broadcasted in the main media channels in Mozambique.
As for the main challenges that FAMOD has been dealing with during this time, we would outline the following:
- Weak presence in the most relevant coordination platforms to advocate for disability inclusion;
- Weak media and communication capacity;
- Weak capacity to assist persons with disabilities with food and hygiene materials;
- Weak capacity to monitor the inclusivity of Government and NGOs` interventions.
In conclusion, this is the scenario that persons with disabilities have been experiencing in Mozambique since the outbreak of Covid19 as well as the general picture of the FAMOD’s intervention.