COVID-19 Impact On PWDs And How Families Are Coping
Posted on June 30, 2020
Nyavor Dodzi is a 41 year old man suffering from multiple disabilities. He cannot walk; stand nor sit for 2 hours.
Dodzi has been living with brittle bone disease (Osteogenesis Imperfecta) and the condition gets worse as age catches up with him. Going through each day is a struggle.
Right from bed, Dodzi may need assistance without which he would have to crawl even to places of convenience.
Accessing basic health care on a regular day is a hurdle Dodzi would have to overcome. He has to be bathed and carried in order to be transported to a nearest health center.
And that’s not all; the people who carry Dodzi around may have to do this carefully lest they break his fragile limbs.
Dodzi’s vulnerabilities are just like the many others who are physically challenged.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says older adults and people of any age who have serious underlying medical conditions might be at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.
Research says exercising on the regular may help protect our bodies against myriad diseases and illnesses, potentially including the infection caused by the novel Corona virus. But Dodzi cannot exercise, neither can he social distance, and coupled with a fragile immune system which makes him suffer frequent headaches, back and joint pains, Dodzi says the probability of him contracting the virus is very high.
“Most of us we depend on people and we don’t know the kind of people we are coming into contact with, The chances are very high” Dodzi said.
“Because, if the person comes to me and they want to help you, assuming the person didn’t wear a face mask, because you are in need, you can’t instruct the person not to help you, because you need the help” he continued.
For him, contracting Covid-19, may seem like a death sentence. He shudders at the thought of his family members falling victim to the virus should he contract it.
When Ghana’s COVID-19 lockdown was lifted, his family, mainly siblings decided to seek the assistance of a neighbor to assist him with daily activities while they resume work, but that assistance will be short lived as the caregiver will also have to make a living through hawking. Dodzi tells me how he has to fend for himself for 8 hours until the care taker returns in the evening to continue her work.
He is however grateful to his siblings who have provided him with hand sanitizers; His only safeguard to preventing the infection.
Beyond the desire to have people who come into contact with him wash their hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds, wear a face masks or use hand sanitizers regularly, Dodzi says policy makers must also compliment efforts of his family and provide the vulnerable with PPES and frequent health checkups.
“Government must also ensure that the physically challenged are well protected. May be they will give us PPES, face masks, hand sanitizers and also provide us with medical check-up so that we know our status” He said solemnly.
The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection of Ghana is the government arm responsible for protecting the vulnerable.
Gender minister Cynthia Morrison says government has increased the common fund from 3 percent to 5 percent which is distributed to all persons with vulnerabilities. She however wants families to pay particular attention to the needs of the vulnerable during covid-19 since “government cannot do it all” Madam Morrison said.
“The first port of call when we get home is to look out for the person who is fragile, (or the one) that is disabled. We are not to treat them as if they are not human beings. If we have to take three children to school and one is disabled, the obvious is that we take the two stronger ones and leave the disabled one that cannot fend for himself. I think we have to rethink this. Because of our culture and our norms, we see them as cursed, but we should know it is nature that has made them the way they are and give them all the attention” she added”
She however regrets that persons with some form of vulnerability cannot observe social distancing as they are often touched.
Madam Morrison also stressed the need for families to ensure they adhere strictly to the best preventive measures suitable for their relations.
Meanwhile the Ghana Federation for the disabled (GFD) says families must be able to support the vulnerable by disseminating the right information about Covid -19 to them.
“and even we have to make sure that the family members before supporting persons with disability on wheelchairs have sanitized themselves properly so ensure they don’t infect them with the disease and share information about Covid-19 with them” communications officer for the federation, Adam Abdul Wahab said.
Dodzi’s situation reveals the gaps in Ghana’s social intervention policies and how people with vulnerabilities are left at the receiving end.
Writer: Daniel Lartey