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Include the disabled in Covid-19 response initiatives: LNFOD

Limpho Sello

LESOTHO’S Covid-19 response measures exclude people living with disabilities, the Lesotho National Federation for Organisations of the Disabled (LNFOD) has said.

LNFOD executive director Nkhasi Sefuthi this week told the Sunday Express that people living with disabilities like visual impairment, deafness and intellectual disabilities were excluded from the decision-making process and implementation of response measures.

He said Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro and Health minister Motlatsi Maqelepo’s recent statements on Covid-19 protective measures did not address the needs of disabled people.

Adv Sefuthi also said the information on Covid-19 was inaccessible to people with disabilities.

“Information on Covid-19 is not produced in accessible formats for persons with disabilities, especially the visually impaired, the deaf and those with intellectual disabilities,” Adv Sefuthi said.

“For instance, people are advised to cover their mouths with their elbows when they cough. This practice, he said, exposes the visually impaired who rely on holding onto elbows of their escorts.

“It is similarly unclear how social distancing should apply to people with severe disabilities and their personal assistants.

“It is also not mentioned whether there is support for persons with disability and their personal assistants. LNFOD has observed that people with disabilities and their families or personal assistants are at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19.”

He added that there was also a risk that the people who assist people with disabilities may desert them fearing that they may contract Covid-19.

He therefore recommended that messages about Covid-19 should be availed in formats that the disabled can easily access.

“These include Braille, sign language, audios and simplified picture illustrations. They should be spread across the country.

“There should be additional protective measures for people with certain disabilities… Family members and care givers of persons with disabilities must be trained on how to avoid infection and spreading Covid-19.”

Adv Sefuthi also recommended that health professionals handling Covid-19 cases should be capacitated to assist patients with disabilities.

“All preparedness and response plans must be made in consultation with the representatives of people with disabilities so that they are inclusive of and accessible to people with disabilities,” Adv Sefuthi said.

He said LNFOD is willing to support the government and other stakeholders in shaping a disability inclusive Covid-19 response for the protection of all citizens.

Contacted for comment yesterday, the Minister of Social Development ‘Matebatso Doti, told the Sunday Express that her ministry had designed a Covid-19 programme that will respond to the needs of people with disabilities.

She said they would work inclusively with LNFOD to ensure that organisation to add its input.

“The programme will be publicised once we have all agreed but we are close. I will however, not get into the details for now,” Ms Doti said.

She said the government was committed to protecting people with disabilities from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Apart from the Covid-19 programme where they are working with LNFOD, Ms Doti said they have also deployed one of their officials to represent the ministry in the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC). The director will ensure that key populations like people with disabilities are represented.



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