FODSWA Assesses COVID-19 Impact on PWDs in Eswatini
By Sipho Dlamini
The Federation of Organizations of the Disabled in Swaziland (FODSWA) undertook visits to Northern Hhohho and Manzini as part of a snap survey on the effects that the COVID-19 may have had on persons with disabilities (PWDs). The visits to the two regions recently reflected that a majority of persons with disabilities did not have food and were also left out of the cash transfers by National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA).
Responding to questions, over 30 persons with disabilities who were interviewed stated that they always felt neglected during such trying times yet they often heard from national radio that they would receive food parcels and money to buy food but it never happened.
They said life was a very serious challenge for them because due to the state of their disabilities it was not easy to engage in piece jobs that would see them earn money to put food on the table. They said it was indeed true that poverty was closely related to disability for the reason that in many cases persons with disabilities get married to each other and both be unemployed as such making life very difficult for the families they raised.
It was worth noting that most of these people have little or no education at all that would see them earn jobs that would not demand physical power to execute their duties.
It was further gathered that some of the persons with disabilities in the community were not getting their routine medications such as those with HIV & AIDS, TB, diabetes, and any other such chronic diseases as a result of the lockdown.
They said in some instances transport operators would not allow them to board their buses because they carried a limited number of passengers and as such they would not allocate seats to people who did not pay bus fare.
On the issue of calling the emergency lines 112 and 977 the said they did call the numbers on numerous but would either have late responses or no responses at all.
There is then the challenge of assistive devices which continues to haunt mostly those with visually impairment in the form of white canes and physically disabled who either need crutches, walking sticks or wheelchairs to carry them around.
Due to the state of their disabilities it was not easy to engage in piece jobs that would see them earn money to put food on the table. most of these people have little or no education at all that would see them earn jobs that would not demand physical power to execute their duties.
It also transpired during the visits that communication has continued to be a barrier in transmitting information to everyone in an equitable manner such as those with deaf impairment.
It was realized that most of the deaf community did not have TV sets where there was sign language interpretation. They were, therefore, deprived of the right to information during this tragic time of COVID-19.
It is recommended that there is need to educate persons with disabilities in the community on the devastation that COVID-19 can inflict on their lives if they do not adhere to precautionary measures by WHO, government and the ministry of health.
Efforts must be made to make sure all persons with disabilities in the country possess face masks, have access to water and soap or even have hand sanitizers. It is recommended further health services that were rendered to those with chronic illnesses before COVID-19 continue to be given to them even during this time of the pandemic so that treatment is not aborted which may cause serious danger to their lives.
It is recommended further that mass testing is conducted on all persons with disabilities to determine whether there are positive cases that would warrant prompt isolations or not.
We recommend that food parcels be provided to all persons with disabilities so that their conditions are not aggravated by starvation.
FODSWA conveys its appreciation to the United Nations Resident Coordinator Nathalie Ndongo-Seh for granting us transport to the above mentioned regions for a snap survey on the effects that the COVID-19 may have had on persons with disabilities.
This noble gesture has made us realize just how important it is to touch base with persons with disabilities especially those in remote areas since they are the ones that often bare the worst effects of every disaster that hits or befalls countries of the world.