Beatrice Seshie lives in Ghana and cares for her son, who has cerebral palsy.
“This coronavirus and the lockdown that followed was a very stressful period,” she says. “I couldn’t observe the social distancing measures since my son depends on me for everything. As a family, we had to make sure we washed our hands or sanitised and put on a face mask before approaching him.”
Beatrice’s experience is one shared by many people with disabilities and their families throughout Ghana. The COVID-19 pandemic and its associated public restrictions have made life particularly challenging for people with disabilities, not only because of social distancing measures but also lack of access to information and health care, and difficulty meeting the specific requirements of people with different types of disabilities.
Ghana recorded the first two positive cases of COVID-19 on 12 March 2020 and the government’s response was prompt and decisive. In the president’s address to the nation on 15 March, he announced several measures aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.
These interventions touched on two main areas: health and prevention measures; and social interventions, meant to support the most vulnerable population in the country. But it became apparent that the information on the prevention of COVID-19 did not consider the needs of people with disabilities, including those with mental health conditions.
The social interventions to support the most vulnerable also did not consider the barriers that people with disabilities would face when asked to access these relief items compared to people without disabilities.
According to the executive director of the Ghana Federation of Disability (GFD) organisation: “Most people with disabilities in Ghana live in poor and deplorable conditions and are not able to acquire personal protective materials to protect themselves from COVID-19.” People with disabilities are therefore more vulnerable and are at higher risk of getting infected by the virus. The government’s emergency response support and programmes should be properly targeted and inclusive to provide assurance of safety and protection of people with disabilities from COVID-19.
There is a real need to advocate for targeted interventions, to make sure that people with disabilities can access the support they need during the pandemic. We’re meeting this need with the Ghana Somubi Dwumadie (Ghana Participation Programme), funded by UK aid from the British people. Through the programme, working with other stakeholders (including the NCPD, GFD, STAR Ghana, government agencies and the World Health Organization), we are:
- ensuring the availability of accessible information about coronavirus
- raising awareness of people with disabilities and their representative organisations on the protective measures needed to combat COVID-19
- sharing details on how and where people with disabilities, including people with mental health and/or psycho-social disabilities, can access care and social support.
We continue to call on the government to ensure that all other interventions are inclusive of people with disabilities, and that people with disabilities and their organisations are consulted in deciding and implementing measures that are aimed at supporting them during the COVID-19 pandemic.