Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, Kenyans with disability were identified as a vulnerable population due to increased risk of morbidity and mortality as a result of underlying health conditions, potential exposures to multiple support workers and informal carers, and ‘social determinants of health’ impacts such as discrimination and social exclusion. Despite this, persons with disability have largely been ignored in the national and county Government’s initial COVID-19 policy response. Consequently, the disability sector rapidly mobilised itself to lobby for the national Government to create a disability specific policy response or even some specific action on the mainstream Covid action measures, which resulted in the disability sector getting nothing at all. I observe even when the national response committee and national vaccination committees and associated Roundtable to help inform the development of a response, persons with disabilities were never been represented.
Despite an initial lack of action to protect people with disability by the government,
It is on record, some initiatives targeting persons with disabilities were done. For instance, a working coordination group via WhatsApp was formed and lobbied for hand washing sanitizers and advocated for access for water and communication. Some organization of persons with disabilities lobbied for food hummers and assistive devices, other initiatives included writing of press statements by umbrella organizations of persons with disabilities, and letters to raise the voice of persons with disabilities. Where did this momentum go?
As the disability sector returned to normalcy?
On the other hand, after our disability sausage desktop literature review, we have established there were no any number of enablers that could helped both draw policy makers attention to the issue and facilitate a relatively rapid policy response once policy makers were on board. This is because the process of developing the COVID-19 disability policy response was seen and still viewed by stakeholders as a mostly negative experience. I believe Many members of the disability sectoral groups have expressed a desire for the structures (Advisory Committee and Roundtable), which had been established during 2020 to become more inclusive.
If they were inclusive the sector could have vouched for the task force to continue once the immediate threat of the pandemic is over. However, it was also identified that to continue in an effective manner there would need to be a tight focus for the group(s) to avoid confusion over the purpose and direction moving forward.
While there were positive aspects to the development of the several initiatives, there were also a number of barriers identified that hindered its execution. Many of these barriers are long standing issues in the disability-health policy interface rather than new issues and these were further exacerbated in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Overall, there was negative engagement with the sector once the Advisory Committee and Roundtable were established, however fully implementing responses was more challenging due to issues such as lack of collection of data on which to base decisions and ongoing difficulties in the disability health interface.
Could the duty bears be following the trend of ignoring policy formulation aimed at uplifting persons with disabilities?
Is this an affirmation of the slow process of enacting the draft disability policy, drat persons with disability bill still at the attorney goral’s office?