Why 2020 decided to put its foot in our behinds. Author Mugambi Paul

According to the world blind union, it is estimated 285 million people are Blind and vision impaired. worldwide with about 90% of them living in low-income countries.  Of all the school-age children with visual impairment, less than half were receiving education. 

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic that has now enveloped the whole world, most governments took drastic measures of shutting down institutions of learning.

I affirm as a Blind fellow in the low-income country it is worse to be Blind at this Corona period.

This is because of the educational inequalities ranging from attitudinal, institutional and existence of the environmental barriers.

To put matters differently Blind and vision impaired persons are experiencing quadruple worries:

Lack of inclusive education Corona policies

Lack of skills and lack of   assistive technology,

lack of devices needed for reading and writing

Lack of available of even traditional modes of technology while at home e.g. Brail books, adaptive graphics.

Psycosocial distress.

Inaccessible built environments

Increase of discrimination

Additionally, all these issues have rendered individuals with blindness to suffer. Evidently in most countries they have provided alternative learning through the 4th revolution uptake of digital learning but not having the blind and vision impaired in mind.

Am very sad to say the list since the approaches and techniques adapted by most ministry of education has ensured Blind, visually impaired and Deafblind have been left behind.

Notably, over 80% of all incidental learning and the performance of activities of daily living are dependent on sight.  

The SDG slogan “don’t live us behind”” is unwanted ringtone to many blind and vision impaired.

The barriers experienced by many blind and vision impaired persons range from usage of non-visual chats, inaccessible contents, non-inclusive plans,

Lack of affordability of the radios and television among blind and vision impaired persons since poverty and disability are twin brothers.

Inaccessible modes of learning and channels of media.

Someone should educate me how braille will be examined virtually!

Someone should tell me how the adapted sciences will be examined virtually.

To be a student in the corona era seems to be a torture chamber by itself.

Its not that blind and vision impaired were not facing these challenges before but Covid 2019 has excarnificated the experiences.

Another instance is the experiences of girls and women who are blind and vision impaired are at higher risk of gender-based violence and it’s on record with the self-isolation guidelines many will be taken advantage.

I won’t be surprised to know the pregnancy rates have increased.

Human rights reports in several countries have shown how persons with disabilities are stuffing in the hands of close relatives and family members.

 

Lastly, the real, refugee set ups and internally displaced individuals who are blind and vision impaired are worse hit since they aren’t able to access the alternative mode of learning and support mechanisms are not in place.

The voice of the Blind and vision impaired seemed to have been stung led by the lack of alternative formats of Corona and then ensured to instigate the burial ceremony by many state and non-state actors.

Moreover, most governments do not have inclusive emergency plans in place thus persons with disabilities come as a second thought.

Is this fair for many students who are blind and vision impaired?

UnCRPD, many constitutions expressly advocate for right to education.

All in all, even under normal circumstances, persons who are blind and vision impaired are less likely to access health care, education, employment and to participate in the community. They are more likely to live in poverty, experience higher rates of violence, neglect and abuse, and are among the most marginalized in any crisis-affected community. COVID-19 has further compounded this situation, disproportionately impacting persons who are blind and vision impaired both directly and indirectly.

An integrated approach is required to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind in COVID-19 education response and recovery. It calls for placing them at the centre of the response, participating as agents of planning and implementation. All COVID-19 related action must prohibit any form of discrimination based on blindness and take into consideration the intersections of gender and age, among other factors. This is necessary effectively and efficiently to address and prevent barriers inclusion will result in a COVID19 response and recovery that better serves everyone, more fully suppressing the virus, as well as building back better. It will provide for more agile systems capable of responding to complex situations, reaching the furthest behind first.

 

governments need to put measures in place to ensure many blind and vision impaired persons do not fall in to the cracks.

I would like to see inclusive strategies adapted to ensure that no one is left behind.

 

The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.

 Mugambi Paul is a public policy, diversity, inclusion and sustainability expert.

Australian Chief Minister Award winner

“excellence of making inclusion happen”

 

Corona the twin Brother of Indigenous disabled Kenyans author Mugabi Paul

The experiences of indigenous Kenyans with disabilities are a key area of concern since they haven’t been recognized or no one is aware about them. the Kenya bureau of statistics of 2019 doesn’t address or mention this group.

Hence no Data to show the    disproportionate impact and number of indigenous persons with disabilities. some form of long-term health condition.[i]

It’s a known fact that indigos disable Kenyans with disability may face particular challenges in their day to day lives, including accessing education and healthcare and shelter and livelihood. These challenges can be further compounded by 6multiple layers of discrimination, particularly in relation to tribe and disability

 In the Corona era they are most likely to be denied services as other marginalized groups get involved.

Their voices aren’t visible, some say they are backward lot but I affirm they are left behind not just by the structural and systemic influences but also the assertion of any development indicators.

 

 

The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.

 Mugambi Paul is a public policy,  diversity,  inclusion and sustainability expert.

Australian Chief Minister Award winner

“excellence of making inclusion happen”

Award winner,

How to stop “Discrimination” in the Corona era! a call by Public policy scholars.

Addressing discrimination and inequality in the global response to COVID-19

In the short time since the start of this new decade, life has changed dramatically across the world. COVID-19 has now spread to more than 185 countries. The number of recorded cases has surpassed 3.5 million. Families and friends across the globe are mourning the loss of more than 240,000 people. With the stated intention of controlling the spread of the virus and protecting lives, States are implementing unprecedented restrictions on movement both within and between countries (“lockdowns”), with significant and wide-ranging impacts on societies and economies.  

As these measures have taken effect, it has become clear that, while the virus is indiscriminate, the impacts of state responses are not. In late April, launching a new report, United Nations Secretary General António Guterres stated that the pandemic is a public health emergency “that is fast becoming a human rights crisis”. As that UN report highlights, there is clear and growing evidence that state responses in delivery of healthcare, in the implementation of lockdown measures and in policies designed to mitigate economic impacts are having disproportionate and discriminatory impacts. These effects are being experienced by all groups exposed to discrimination, including, but not limited to, older persons, children, persons with disabilities, women, ethnic and religious minorities and indigenous peoples, persons, persons living with HIV and AIDS, and migrants, refugees and stateless persons. They are impacting upon the enjoyment of rights ranging from freedom of movement to access to education and from access to information to an adequate standard of living, together, of course, with the rights to life and to health. 

These discriminatory impacts are occurring despite the fact that almost every State in the world has accepted international legal obligations to ensure the equal enjoyment of human rights, without discrimination. At a bare minimum, these obligations require that the State – whether through law, policy or practice – does not discriminate in its actions. They also create a duty to provide effective protection from all forms of discrimination by private actors and to make reasonable accommodation when required. These obligations apply to all: citizen and non-citizen, irrespective of their identity, status or beliefs. They are “immediate and cross-cutting”. They apply in respect of all civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Crucially, while international law recognises that in states of emergency, States can limit the enjoyment of certain human rights, their obligations to ensure nondiscrimination remain – emergency measures must not discriminate either in their purpose or their effects.

As this unprecedented global crisis unfolds, it is clear that States are failing to meet their nondiscrimination obligations. Their responses – largely driven by a stated intention to protect lives – are having a wide range of discriminatory impacts. While many of these effects may be unintended, the lack of intent does not limit States’ obligations. Moreover, with new evidence emerging each week, it is clear that we cannot yet foresee the full range of discriminatory impacts which this crisis will engender. 

State obligations to assess and address equality impacts

We call on all States to incorporate equality impact assessment as an integral element of their ongoing public health, economic and social policy responses to the crisis. It is only through assessing the equality impacts of their policy responses that States can ensure that their actions comply with their binding non-discrimination obligations under international law. Equality impact assessment is the only way that States can anticipate and eliminate the discriminatory effects of their policy responses, including those which are unintended or unforeseen.

Equality impact assessments must be aimed at identifying and eliminating the actual or potential discriminatory effects of State policies. They should also ensure that policies and programmes respond to and accommodate the different needs of diverse groups with due consideration to intersectionality and that they do not create or exacerbate inequality. 

In order to ensure that States comply with their international legal obligations, equality impact assessments should be pre-emptive, coming before new policy measures are adopted and before any changes are made to policies which are already in force. Where measures have already been adopted, equality impact assessment should be undertaken as an urgent priority. Where discriminatory impacts are identified, measures to eliminate any discrimination or inequality of impact should be taken with immediate effect. States must ensure that they involve and consult all groups at risk of discrimination and experiencing inequality in conducting equality impact assessment. States must ensure that equality impact assessment is an essential element of their monitoring and review of policy responses to the pandemic and of their on the ground effects. Both initial assessments and ongoing monitoring must be informed by the collection of data on the experiences and outcomes of groups exposed to discrimination

All policy responses to the crisis must be subject to assessment, including those relating to the management of healthcare and other resources, the restriction of civil liberties, closure of businesses and educational establishments, adaptation of support services, economic and social protection programmes, immigration and border control and the use of new information technologies. The actual or potential equality impacts of actions by both state and private actors must be assessed.  

A renewed commitment to the creation of an equal world

Furthermore, we call on all States to emerge from the current crisis with a renewed commitment to the elimination of all forms of discrimination and the creation of a world in which all are “free and equal in dignity and rights”. The wide range of unintended discriminatory consequences of state responses to the crisis – ranging from the increased exposure to the virus amongst ethnic minority populations to the rise in domestic violence – only serve to underline the deep inequalities within our societies and the failure to address the systemic discrimination which feeds them. 

This crisis has shone a harsh and unforgiving light on these existing inequalities. We must emerge from it ready to forge a world in which all can participate equally. Arundhati Roy has described this pandemic as a portal, “a gateway between one world and the next”. We call on States to ensure that we walk through this portal leaving no one behind, and with a shared determination to create an equal world.

Hope beyond COVID-19 Author Mugambi Paul

Africans with disabilities are largely left out of the African governments. coronavirus response despite being uniquely affected by the disease, as discussed by the international disability alliance, several disability experts and Views expressed in different social media platforms.

 

Palpably, The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many aspects of our daily lives, but its impacts are especially acute for disabled persons, who may

struggle with challenges like finding reliable and safe in-home care or physically adapting to enhanced hand-washing guidance.

But the coronavirus outbreak has also created opportunities for more equitable inclusion after the pandemic ends.

How might the pandemic disturb those who have disabilities?

For disabled persons, all the general challenges that come with the pandemic certainly apply, but there are additional barriers. The first is communication—getting

information can be more difficult for people with vision, hearing, and even cognitive disabilities, as popular news sources may not be accessible, especially

when information is changing quickly. I’m Blind and can attest to that. Keeping all of us informed is key to the COVID-19 public health response,

but information is not always accessible to the disability community, for instance data visual charts are not understood.

The second barrier involves adopting recommended public health strategies, such as social distancing and washing hands. For example, frequent hand-washing

is not always feasible for people with certain types of physical disabilities. As a public scholar I know the value of these strategies, but public health

policies often do not consider people with disabilities, leaving a gap in guidance. Those who have personal aides like sighted guides for Deaf blind and Blind individuals, and caregivers also need to be considered,

as they cannot participate in social distancing in the same way that others are.

The third, equitable access to health care, is a long-standing barrier worsened by COVID-19. This ranges from getting a coronavirus test to being seen

in an emergency room. For instance, drive-up testing may be impossible if you rely on state mobility services. There are also existing barriers in health

care settings that are exacerbated as the industry aims to meet the surge of COVID-19 cases. For example, the use of personal protective equipment, including

masks, can make communication more difficult for patients with hearing loss.

Additionally, the allocation of medical resources is a concern. There’s fear that medical resource allocation, including ventilators, may be discriminatory

against patients with disabilities. In Europe and united states of America some organization of persons with disabilities and human rights bodies have filed complains about these rationing policies. This issue echoes an underlying misconception

that people with disabilities can’t have a high quality of life and therefore the lives of disabled people may not be prioritized.

What lessons can African government learn from inclusion in Corona response for disabled persons?

in some countries, there has been a shift toward telehealth for nonurgent medical visits. That has provided challenges but also future

opportunities for the disability sector. We must ensure that telehealth visits are accessible to patients with vision or hearing loss or other disabilities

in order to maintain equity in health care delivery. If accessibility is prioritized as we make this change, a transition to telehealth could open the

door to a more accessible health care system.

Several studies have underpinned, THE ISSUES OF PRE-PANDEMIC CARE DELIVERY ONLY BECOME MORE URGENT IN A TIME OF CRISIS BECAUSE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES HAVE OFTEN NOT BEEN CONSIDERED IN

A DISASTER OR PANDEMIC PLANNING.

While there’s a lot of pressure and certainly a high demand to meet the COVID-19 surge, it is still crucial to make sure that the organizations of persons with disabilities and disability experts

is being considered. It’s truly a remarkable and challenging moment for African health system, but the needs of the disability community can’t fall through

the cracks. The issues of pre-pandemic care delivery only become more urgent in a time of crisis because people with disabilities have often not been considered

in a disaster or pandemic planning. We need to learn from this crisis and ensure disability is part of future pandemic planning.

For those in the disability community who require in-home care or essential services when away from home, what steps can be taken to minimize the risk

of spreading the coronavirus while still receiving necessary care and assistance?

People who use in-home support care need to make sure that they have contingency plans for their care needs in case a caregiver becomes ill. Caregivers and community

organizations should also consider changing their staffing to the best of their ability in order to minimize spread. For instance, instead of three rotating

caregivers being assigned to an individual, assign one for a longer period of time. For people with a primary caregiver in the home, more flexibility in

paid time off or sick leave can minimize exposure while also meeting the care needs of the individual. What’s really important is to engage the individual

and the disability community at the policy level.

Furthermore, MANY disabled persons ARE AT HIGH RISK OF COVID-19, BUT THEIR PERSPECTIVE IS NOT BEING INCLUDED IN THE EFFORTS TO ADDRESS INEQUITIES IN THE RESPONSE.

For instance, most Kenyan policy directives are not disability inclusive.

 

In a moment when many providers have had to alter their operations due to the pandemic, what are ways to advocate for essential services and treatment

for the disability community?

The best approach is to ensure that whenever we’re talking about inequity or differences in the COVID-19 response, disability is part of the discussion.

Many people with disabilities are at high risk of COVID-19, but their perspective is not being included in the efforts to address inequities in the response.

This includes understanding the unique challenges of this community during this crisis.

We also need disability data. There is currently no systematic reporting of COVID-19 testing, infection, mortality, or outcomes by disability status.

This is evident by the daily media updates from different countries.

For example, in east Africa important differences in this data by age, geographic location, underlying health condition, estate location and race have emerged. These data have been

critical for allocating resources and directing policies, as well as highlighting underlying disparities and elevating discussions around these health

gaps. But for people with disabilities, an often-ignored health disparity population, we don’t even get counted. And this is not just the case for COVID-19.

Disability data is infrequently collected in this type of public health and medical surveillance, which limits opportunities to address disability inequities.

As a public policy scholar and expert on diversity and inclusion I affirm and recommend the data being reported should be 15 % or more are persons with disabilities “WHO 2011”

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, what impact and legacy do you think it will have for those living with disabilities?

I’m an optimistic person, and though it can be hard to think positively right now, there is an opportunity to change how we include people with disabilities

in this moment. COVID-19 has elevated that conversation, and the legacy should be a continued focus on disability disparities and constant efforts to address

disability inequities.

As we all make substantial changes in our daily lives, such as working from home and adjusting how we connect to others, look to people with disabilities

for guidance, as we have always used alternative strategies. We are the vanguards of resilience. My hope is that COVID-19 will bring more understanding,

inclusion, and opportunity to the African disability community.

 

The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.

 Mugambi Paul is a public policy, diversity, inclusion and sustainability expert.

Australian Chief Minister Award winner

“excellence of making inclusion happen”

 

Mental health and wellbeing during the Coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak Author Paul Mugambi

 

The outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 has impacted people in varying ways on global scale. It is understandable that during times like this,

people may be feeling afraid, worried, anxious and overwhelmed by the constantly changing alerts and media coverage regarding the spread of the virus.

Disabled persons have lived experience on this and with the additional Corona concerns its even worse.

While it is important to stay informed, the following are some mental health and wellbeing tips and strategies to continue looking after ourselves and

each other during these difficult times.

The tips are based on  experiences and great lessons as a  global citizen. 

Manage your exposure to media coverage as this can increase feelings of fear and anxiety. Be mindful of sources of information and ensure you are accessing

good quality and accurate information. Follow a “calm yet cautious” approach – do you best to remain calm and be mindful not to contribute to the widespread panic that can hinder efforts to

positively manage the outbreak. Ensure you are following directives issued by the government and WHO  medical advice and observe good hygiene habits.

 

Show compassion and kindness to one another – these times of fear, isolation (both physical and social) and uncertainty are when it is most important that

we strengthen our sense of community by connecting with and supporting each other. Remind ourselves that we can manage this much better together in solidarity,

and that COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate – it can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, disability, nationality, or ethnicity.

 

Actively manage your wellbeing by maintaining routines where possible, connect with family and friends (even if not in person), staying physically active,

eating nutritious foods and seeking additional support by contacting government or further professional support as required.  

 

Strategies to cope with social distancing, self-isolation or quarantine

 

Going into a period of social distancing, self-isolation or quarantine may feel daunting or overwhelming, and can contribute to feelings of helplessness

and fear. In addition to the above, I  encourage the following.

 

list of 7 items

  • Perspective – try to see this time as unique and different, not necessarily bad, even if it something you didn’t necessarily choose
  • Connection – think of creative ways to stay connected with others, including social media, email and phone
  • Be generous to others – giving to others in times of need not only helps the recipient, it enhances your wellbeing too. Is there a way to help others?

around you?

Thanks to those who have supported in kind the cases I presented to them.

  • Stay connected with your values. Don’t let fear or anxiety drive your interactions with others. I am also in this together!
  • Daily routine – create a routine that prioritises things you enjoy and even things you have been meaning to do but haven’t had enough time. Read that

book, watch that show, take up that new hobby.

  • Try to see this as a new and unusual period that might even have some benefits.
  • Limit your exposure to news and media. Perhaps choose specific times of day when you will get updates, and ensure they are from reputable and reliable

sources.

In my case I don’t own a TV.

Staying connected through the COVID-19 crisis

 

Research after the sierra Leone Ebola shows evidence of the significance of connection through epidemics.  It found that residents

in Sierra Leone experienced increased social connectedness, which offset the negative mental health impacts of the pandemic.

 

As connection is so important during this time, here are some tips on staying connected to others during this time. Remember – we are all in this together.

 

list of 2 items

  •  If there is someone you think may struggle through social isolation, it is important to reach out to them and let them know you care:

list of 4 items nesting level 1

◦ Call them to check on their welfare

◦ Send an email

◦ Leave a note under their door

◦ Don’t underestimate the power you have to offer hope to another person.

I have evidently seen work miracle around my self-Isolation tunnel.

list end nesting level 1

  • I encourage people to get creative with how they interact, here are some ways to stay connected if self-isolating:

I have greatly borrowed from the recent interaction in the social media.

list of 4 items nesting level 1

◦ Set up a gratitude tree – where every member posts a message or sends a text to other members to share something, they are grateful for.

◦ Find a buddy, or group of, to set daily challenges with. These could include a healthy habit, a mindful practice, a creative pursuit. Be sure to encourage

and check in daily to stay motivated.

 

◦ Set dates and times to watch the same TV shows/movies with someone and message each other your thoughts along the way… kind of like Goggle Box but you’re

not sharing the couch!

Ask random questions in the social media to make guys think!

◦ If your local community has one, join its social media group! This will keep you up to date with what’s going on directly around you. It may also include

ways you can perhaps reach out and connect with someone less fortunate than you and ways to assist them.

list end nesting level 1

list end

 

Helping children cope through COVID-19

 

This is an uncertain time for everyone, and children may be impacted by fear and anxiety. Here are some tips on how to ensure your children are supported;

 

list of 4 items

  • Give your children extra attention and reassurance. Where possible, minimise their exposure to media and social media that may heighten anxiety
  • Acknowledge your own feelings about the situation and let children know it’s okay to share their own feelings
  • Include your children in plans and activities around the house
  • If you don’t see an improvement in 4 weeks, or if you’re concerned, seek professional help (earlier if needed)

list end

 

Reputable sources of information

 

  • World Health Organisation –

http://www.who.int

Where to go for support?

 

 

It is extremely important to seek out help if you feel you need it. I want to remind everyone that counselling services are readily available.

 

The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.

 Mugambi Paul is a public policy,  diversity,  inclusion and sustainability expert.

2018  Chief minister award winner

“making inclusion happen”

 

are disabled Kenyans In contradiction of the war Corona 2019? “what should Kenyan public health practitioner’s consider? Guest author Farida Asindua, _____

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic continues to cause a trail of destruction globally. In the full wake of the pandemic in Kenya, a disproportionate effect is most likely to be among the vulnerable groups, such as the 918,270 people living with disabilities (PLWD) in the country. According to Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (2019) Census report, women with disability in the country are 523,883 while 394,330 are men. Majority are living in the rural areas, with only 179,492 living in urban areas – mainly in dense, poor and unserviced informal settlements – rendering them more vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

1.      Unique PLWD needs in the COVID-19 era

PLWD are more vulnerable due to the nature of their disabilities.  Lack of mobility is the leading disability in the country, followed by those visually impaired and cognition. Others are mental, intellectual, or sensory disabilities. COVID-19 pandemic puts all these categories of PLWD at risk of increased morbidity and mortality. In the current crisis, they are less likely to access health services, and more likely to experience greater health needs, worse outcomes, and discriminatory laws and stigma than other demographic groups in the country. With the limited Government capacity to respond to COVID-19, historical evidence points to the likelihood of PLWD being the least likely to be targeted with the interventions.

The country must therefore ensure that the unique needs of PLWD are considered in the ongoing COVID-19 containment and response planning. Interventions against the pandemic should be available and accessible to the PLWD in high quality and acceptable manner.

Public health messaging ought to also target PLWD and other vulnerable groups and should be disseminated in simple language across all the accessible formats. Strategies for vital inperson communication should be safe and accessible for persons with disability – in braille, sign language and large print. Although it is commendable that daily ministerial and periodic presidential addresses use sign language interpreters, wearing of transparent masks by communicators and health-care providers is encouraged to allow lip reading.

Physical distancing or self-isolation mechanisms – including the mandatory quarantine, the night curfew and movement cessation into and out of Nairobi and parts of the coastal strip – are already disrupting service provision for PLWD in those areas, who often rely on assistance for delivery of food, medication, and personal care. It is feared that escalation of these measures into full national lockdown would adversely affect majority of PLWD who reside in rural areas. 

The Government of Kenya and all duty bearers should therefore design the mitigation mechanisms not to lead to the segregation or institutionalisation of PLWD. Community level protective measures should be prioritized in the alternative, allowing care givers to continue to safely support PLWD, enabling them to meet their daily living, health care, and transport needs, and maintain their employment and educational commitments.

2.      Important public health measures

The main public health measures that should propagated to curb the spread of COVID 19 are as follows:

  1. Improved accessibility to hand washing areas with running water and soap so that PLWDs are able to use the facilities without assistance.
  2. PLWDs should embrace having hand sanitizers with them at all times. They should sanitise their assistive appliances like wheel chairs and crutches to ensure that they are not carriers of the virus.
  3. Use of gloves should be encouraged and the same be frequently sanitized. The assistive devices should be washed with water and soap once they reach home. Caution should be exercised if gloves are used. PLWD should ensure they do not touch their face with the gloves.
  4. Handwashing should be encouraged for personal assistants, parents, guardians of persons with disability who assist them frequently.
  5. Persons with visual impairments who have to use touch to tell their environment should be encouraged to use gloves and if possible, to avoid touch of people and surfaces all together to prevent COVID 19 transmission.
  6. Use of masks throughout by PLWD depending on their disability, preferably one with an elastic to the ears to avoid frequently having to put it in place. Some may need assistance to put on again, so once assisted it should remain in place. Depending on the type of disability, some persons with disabilities have personal assistants, who also have to put on a mask, so that they do not infect the persons with disability and vice versa.
  7. Social distance; currently it is recommended to be 1 metre away, and lately some say 1.5 metre away from each other. This may be difficult especially for persons with disability who require someone to constantly be around them for assistance. This being the case depending on the disability, both the aide and the person with disability should be in a mask. They should have a sanitizer to constantly sanitize their hands. Staying home, remains the best option for all including PLWD.

3.      Conclusion

PLWD in Kenya are indeed at increased risk of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus infection or severe disease because of existing comorbidities, and are additionally facing traditional barriers to health care during the current pandemic. Health-care staff ought to be provided with rapid awareness training on the rights and diverse needs of this group to maintain their dignity, safeguard against discrimination, and prevent inequities in care provision. The Government should ensure that COVID-19 mitigation mechanisms are inclusive of PLWD to ensure they maintain respect for dignity, human rights and fundamental freedoms, and avoid widening existing disparities. 

Of necessity, this includes accelerating efforts to include these groups in COVID-19 containment and response planning. It will require diligence, creativity, and innovative thinking, to preserve Kenya’s commitment to UHC, and ensure PLWD are not forgotten.

 

Disclaimer: All views expressed here are that of the author and do not necessarily represent views/opinions of any entity or agency.

a Public Health and Disability Inclusion Expert

Email: fasindua@gmail.com

______________________

What lessons can the low income Countries like Kenya learn from the Corona episodes? Author Mugambi Paul

When it comes to COVID-19, the only thing we can really be sure of is that we don’t really know very much at all. Mortality rates, the R-0 value (the number

of people each coronavirus patient will go on to infect), just how far we need to stand away from an infected person, whether or not we should wear masks,

and just about everything else about dealing with this virus seems to change with each passing day.

 

Are we dealing with one strain or two? Has the virus mutated? And, importantly, can people who have “recovered” from the virus continue to infect others?

If so, for how long?

 

According to a report by the South China Morning Post

 (SCMP), doctors in Wuhan, China, found that between 3 and 10 percent of “recovered” patients continued to test positive even after being discharged from

hospital.

 

It has already been established that around 25 percent of COVID-19 patients are asymptomatic, and despite not showing any symptoms, are still infectious.

Might it not be possible, then, that patients who are no longer displaying symptoms, but test positive, could still be infectious? As reported by the SCMP, researchers across the globe are working flat-out to determine whether COVID-19 patients develop antibodies that will protect

them from future infections, and whether those who have officially recovered can still infect others.

 

The country with the best recovery rate to date is China, and as such, scientists are very interested in any research to come out of that country.

 

The SCMP reported:

 

The Chinese mainland, where the disease first emerged last December, has discharged over 90 per cent of its infected patients and around 4,300 confirmed

patients are still receiving treatment in hospitals. …

 

Wang Wei, president of Tongji hospital told CCTV’s prime-time programme that of the 147 recovered patients they studied, only five – or just over 3 per

cent – have tested positive in nucleic acid tests again after recovery.

 

Wang and his team insist that their study should not cause concern because there is no evidence that “recovered” patients can still infect others.

 

He told the media that none of the family members or associates of the five patients who recovered in his hospital but continued to test positive went

on to get infected.

Nonetheless, their findings are especially relevant because China now has thousands of “recovered” patients, and if the doctors are wrong, these patients

could go on to infect others.

 

And other Chinese researchers have found that far more than 3 percent of patients who no longer exhibit symptoms still test positive.

 

The SCMP reported further:

 

Life Times, a health news outlet affiliated with People’s Daily, reported this week that quarantine facilities in Wuhan have reported that about 5 to 10

per cent of their recovered patients tested positive again.

 

Previous reports have also highlighted cases where patients tested positive after recovery, including one case study about a family of three

in Wuhan, who all tested positive again.

 

These incidents have raised questions about whether nucleic acid tests might not be reliable in detecting traces of the virus in some of the recovered

patients.

 

Some experts have also expressed concerns about the sensitivity and stability of the test kits, and the collection and handling of patients’ samples.

 

Only time will tell whether recovered patients can continue to infect others or not, but with close to a million patients worldwide and over 50,000 who

have already died, we can only hope and pray that the Chinese scientists are right.

 

 

 

 

The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.

 Mugambi Paul is a public policy,  diversity,  inclusion and sustainability expert.

 

Will corona 2019 be the answer of removing the disabled Kenyans under the bus by the policy makers? “WHY WE MUST ADDRESS STRUCTURAL INEQUALITIES” Guest Author Mildred Omino

 

World Health Organization declared Coronavirus Disease (COVID19) a pandemic on March 11,2020 following presence of 118,000 cases in over 110 countries and territories around the world with a sustained risk for further spread. At a media briefing, Dr. Tedros, The WHO Director General called upon sectoral and individual involvement in the fight against COVID-19.

Two days after the declaration of the Pandemic by WHO, Kenya recorded the first case of COVID19 amid panic and speculations among the citizens. Prior to the declaration, the disease outbreak was surrounded by myths such as “Children are immune to the Virus”, “The virus can’t survive in high temperatures”, and “The virus affects old people”. With all these myths, Kenyans felt safe since the myths presented a favorable situation to majority of the population. Some of the quick measures enforced by the government of Kenya were, closure of all learning institutions, establishment of COVID emergency response committees at both national and county level as well as regular media briefings on the situation of COVID19 as well as national guidelines on how to contain the virus.

As the virus made top agenda both globally and nationally with infections spreading pretty fast, there was little or no focus given to the impact of the virus on people with disabilities from basic actions such as access to information to critical measures such as emergency response measures to the pandemic.

Globally, the world is home to approximately one billion people with disabilities, eighty percent who live in developing countries and 2-4% experience significant difficulty in functioning. With the increased prevalence of chronic diseases this number is bound to increase. People with disability experience poorer health outcomes, have less access to education and work opportunities, and are more likely to live in poverty than those without a disability. The global situation of people with disabilities as outlined by WHO and World Bank is replicated in Kenya

 

Why We must address Structural Inequalities experienced by persons with disabilities:

In the Wake of COVID19, WHO and respective government ministries of health have developed and advanced key messages around hand hygiene, social distancing, quarantine, isolation of suspected cases and staying at home”.

Majority of persons with disabilities have been missing out on key messages on containing the virus for various reasons such as lack of sign language interpreters during media briefings, lack of information in accessible formats, complexity in messaging for people with intellectual disabilities and “complete cut off on information for poor disabled persons who can’t access television, internet, smart phones merely because the information channels has been social media, radio and television”.

Social distancing has proven to be the most difficult outcome for people with disabilities who are constantly and in fulltime need of personal assistance and personal guides for basic services such as self-care. Little or no information is available for personal assistants of persons with disabilities on best ways of offering care to persons with disabilities during this pandemic, thereby leaving people with disabilities to act in their own discretion.

More so, hand sanitization goes beyond hands all the way to assistive devices such as crutches, calipers, prosthetic limbs, wheelchairs and white canes just to name but a few. This aspect in itself compounds the cost of sanitizers used by persons with disabilities. And for those who do not have assistive devices and are forced to crawl or walk while touching surfaces, the situation becomes even more wanting! The whole aspect of sanitization is either compromised or too expensive if at all it is achievable.

 

The New Normal:

With the outbreak of COVID19 most people are working from home with exception of those who are providing essential services which must be provided on site. Companies/businesses and individuals have quickly adopted to “working remotely” as the only feasible way to contain the spread of the virus. Interesting enough, most jobs in both private and public sector which were presumed to be undertaken in office setting are currently being done from home with support of Technology. One would rightfully think that this “New normal” is the ideal situation for people with disabilities who courtesy of their disability would conveniently work remotely and on ‘’flexi schedules”.

The reality check reveals that majority of persons with disability are unemployed with key reasons for unemployment being inaccessible workplaces i.e. lack of elevators and ramps in office buildings, high cost of hiring sign language interpreters and personal assistants as well as the cost of making adjustments/modifications to office buildings to ensure that they are disability friendly. These scenarios have prompted most potential employers to hire people without disabilities and simply forget about the nightmare of “reasonable accommodations” that would create an employment opportunity for a person with disability.

Potential Employers have also lamented that persons with disabilities lack the requisite qualifications for various jobs. The case of structural inequalities is well demonstrated in education system where learners with disabilities struggles to get education that would adequately prepare them for the job market. The systemic challenges boil down to physical accessibility of learning institutions, inadequate adaptive technology to support disability specific needs, lack of assistive devices and limited or no resources allocated to meet disability specific needs. A small percentage of learners with disabilities make it to higher education whereas majority do not transition from basic education to higher education

Inequitable and socially unjust systems have led to underemployment and unemployment of persons with disabilities leaving most of them to work in the informal sector or to be totally unemployed and a few employed in private and public sector. Post COVID19 it would be important to offer equitable education and employment opportunities now that we know that most jobs can be done remotely without heavy investment on physical infrastructure. Policy makers should desist from policies that lump all vulnerable groups together but rather develop policy guidelines that speak to specific guidelines on how to mitigate the unique challenges of the different vulnerable groups, whether Children, Women, Persons with Disabilities or old people.

 

The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.

 

Mildred Omino

Founder,Women and Realities of Disability Society

Feminist and Disability Rights Champion

Will the “Disabled” Kenyans cry foul after being left in Coronavirus conversations? Author Mugambi Paul

In order not to live the disabled Kenyans who are the largest minority, who make up 15 % of the population.
I opine, disabled Kenyans they deserve not to be left behind.
There is an urgent need for Ministry of health in Kenya to address the rights and needs of disabled person throughout all COVID-19 planning and response.
In other words, for maximum community results in the recent updates from the national and county governments there is the need to close the glaring gap of inclusivity.

Available facts:
Children and adults with disabilities and older adults are 2-4 times more likely to be injured or die in a disaster due to a lack of planning, accessibility, and accommodation. Most people with disabilities are not inherently at a greater risk for contracting COVID-19, despite misconception that all people with disabilities have acute medical problems.
Kenyan government Actions taken now can make a big difference in COVID-19 outcomes
Additionally, the disability sector from both the state and non state actors need to raise the voice not just to remain mum.
Are disabled persons represented at the national emergency committee established by the president?
Are the needs of the disabled catered for in the contingency plans?

Lessons learnt:
One of the greatest lessons in the fight of HIV aids in Kenya is that the disabled persons were not involved nor consulted in the plans strategies for combating the menace.
It took few disability stakeholders to get the national aids control council to ensure inclusivity is realized.
When shall the disabled stakeholders learn not to be left behind?
Should the disability society be involved after the rest of the population? we
Moreover, USAID was very critical in supporting disabled stakeholders in achieving active disability engagements.
Worst still, many disabled persons weren’t aware of how to prevent themselves from the HIV AIDS infection. Many disabled Kenyans died, and many being taken advantage of by the society perceptions and behaviours [HI 2007]
This is because of the late response to the needs of disabled persons.
Several studies showed the greater involved of disabled Kenyans in awareness, contributed to reduction of stigma and discrimination associated with disability and HIV aids.
It also ensured representation in National aids committees, and prevention promoted reduction of spread of the disease. [NACC 2008, Liverpool 2007 HI 2007[.

Role of the disability sector:
Needless to say, disability stakeholders can play a crucial role by facilitating support to the ministry of health on inclusive strategies which will address the needs of the disabled Kenyans.

Legal Obligations and Training
On the other hand, Public and private agencies that provide services to persons with disabilities must be aware of their legal obligations and must train their employees appropriately. When public and private agencies and businesses are unclear about their legal responsibilities, there are no limitations in providing greater than minimum levels of support and services to persons with disabilities. Lack of understanding is NEVER an acceptable reason for failing to meet legal obligations, including throughout emergency circumstances.
Furthermore, the ministry of health has a has a legal obligation to provide equal access to public health emergency services to disabled Kenyans, including throughout a pandemic since our president issued an executive order
Coupled with the support one of the pillars of the big 4 agenda, of Kenyan 2010 constitution on right to access to health services and international conventions.

Needs of disabled Kenyans:

I observe disabled Kenyans require the same resources and assistance that all citizens deserve.
in other words, adequate information and instructions, social and medical services, and protection from infection by those who might contracted the virus. However, some disabled Kenyans may have needs that warrant specific reasonable accommodation by the public and private sectors that may not be necessary for Kenyans without disabilities. This is not much to ask since the current strategies by both national and county governments have not addressed the reasonable accommodations.

For instance, Communications Authority has approved sending of bulk information messages on coronavirus by the Ministry of Health to all subscribers of local mobile phone operators.
I beg to ask:
Are persons with intellectual impairment, Deaf, Blind, psychosocial disabilities able to consume this information?
1. Can the government provide alternative formats of communication in awareness raising? Disabled Kenyans need to be informed of why Ministry of health believe that certain actions are warranted, to be given an opportunity to ask questions and receive answers in an accessible format, and to be afforded the opportunity to object and propose alternative solutions.
2. Another example, the Bagathi hospital has been designated to be the official self-quarantine place.
Has it met accessibility standards?
Are the beds easily accessible and user friendly to Kenyans with mobility impairments?
Moreover, in some places, the distribution of protective equipment, food, and medical supplies might be warranted. If Point of Distribution locations are established, government and private stakeholders must address how these supplies and equipment will be distributed and accessed by disabled Kenyans, elderly and others who have difficulties in movement and lack means of travel. Disabled Kenyans have the right to receive services in the most integrated setting appropriate to their needs.
All in all, the existing legal protections of disabled Kenyans remain in effect under all circumstances. These protections are not subject to waivers or exceptions, even during public health emergencies or declared pandemics.
I Hope there will be no contrition on this journey of ensuring disabled become part of the solutions.

The views expressed here are for the author and do not represent any agency or organization.
Mugambi Paul is a public policy, diversity, inclusion and sustainability expert.