My name is Angeline. The Covid-19 Pandemic would not have come at a more inappropriate time. Not to say that there ever could be an appropriate time for a pandemic! And I know that my feelings are shared by billions world over. And even more by the more than 1 billion persons with disabilities in the globe. For I am a woman with a disability. I am blind.
I was eagerly waiting to join a very competitive Fellowship in the United States in July of this year. The first time I applied for this Fellowship, I did not make it. But now, the second time of trying, I had been selected from thousands of applicants. This was so important for me, as it was an opportunity for me to build on my leadership skills and learn together with other leaders from all over the world.
Obviously, all this has been pushed forward. And to say I was disappointed, would be an understatement. I have been doing consultancies as a woman with disability, doing trainings on disability inclusion; holding talks and seminars, by and large trying to ensure that our world becomes a little more aware and more intentional about including all persons with disabilities in all spheres of life.
But for over 5 weeks now, I have been all locked up in my house. The consultancies are far and in between, and the few where I have engaged are not paying.
I reflect on my own experience and as much as I am worried about these challenges, I worry more about persons with disabilities who are unreached, both by communication on the disease, but also on the support from our government.
I can not move out as I am at a high risk to contract the disease. I worry because I have to use more sanitizer, both for my white cane and also that I have to touch surfaces to move about. Again, for social distancing, it is another barrier for me, as I have to have a guide at close range. And so, for me, the 5 weeks, with little or no money coming in, I have had to rely on the grace of friends. Praying one day to the next, that I have something to take me to the next day and so on.
The government has announced that they are giving relief to vulnerable populations, including us, as persons with disabilities. Unfortunately, this is not something that I have seen happening. The authorities have a prerogative to register the vulnerable in every ward. I hear money has been allocated. But neither have I been registered, and neither have I received any of this financial support.
The government at the local level, must intentionally find organizations of persons with disabilities to work with at this very crucial point. Also, organizations of persons with disabilities must proactively seek to work with the government.
Right now, my fear, above the Covid19, is starvation. This I know is the fear of many vulnerable households. We must ensure that no one of us is stripped off their dignity as a human person because of this pandemic. We cannot allow a population’s dignity to be reduced to begging and praying that they get their next meal, that they may find a well wisher to give them a few shillings for their next meal.
The government must be aware of this. Everyone must be treated with dignity and equality. We are all in this together.
I have an understanding landlord, but I worry that as the days pass and the situation remains, it could get worse. My hope is that the government is more intentional about reaching us. About reaching and providing for every household that needs this support.
For a start, we need all the basic requirements including food and sanitizers