Organizations of Persons with Disabilities in Nigeria have called on its members to take preventive measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
As at March 22, 33 African countries had reported more than 737 cases and 17 deaths due to the pandemic, with more than 67 people recovered.
With the virus gaining ground in the continent, some organizations of Persons with Disabilities have closed down all their activities in Nigeria to join in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Disability Rights Advocacy Center (DRAC) Executive Director, Irene Patrick-Ogbogu said “As soon as the news broke of its presence in Nigeria, we at DRAC took immediate steps to put in place response and prevention measures. This was further necessitated by the vulnerability of persons with disabilities who constitute the majority of our staff, volunteers and beneficiaries and who are not usually prioritized in emergency responses.”
DRAC, she said, had earlier put in place a five-person ‘COVID19 response team’ with the task of educating and updating on new information, conducting ongoing risk assessments and advising on necessary measures.
The response team had on Wednesday advised that, in view of the latest information on the identification of five new cases on Wednesday March 18, DRAC should suspend all project activities and close down the office for at least two weeks while reviewing the situation and see how things play out.
“This decision is even more crucial as our healthcare facilities are currently inaccessible to persons with disabilities, it would therefore be a double jeopardy and almost fatality to expose them to risks that could land them in hospital without proper, adequate and disability sensitive medical management.
“Therefore, with effect from March 19, 2020, DRAC hereby suspends all activities and will be shutting down our offices temporarily until the situation clarifies. We can still be reached via email and phone calls as we will be working from home.” Patrick-Ogbogu said.
Meanwhile, the Center for Citizens with Disabilities executive director, David Anyeale in a recent statement, called on Nigerians with disabilities to take appropriate measures to protect themselves from contacting the virus.
These measures, he listed include avoiding large gathering, public function or party or better still stay in-doors.
David urges persons with disabilities to note that a government that cannot establish the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities 14 months after the passage of the National Disability Act, may not be in a hurry to protect them from the negative consequences of the Coronavirus.
He expresses worry that the Federal and States Government information on the prevention, spread and control of the virus are not disability sensitive. In all the television announcement by the Ministry of Health and its agencies on the virus, he said “none is disability friendly as there are absences of sign language interpreters to interpret for the deaf community in Nigeria on what the government is doing to control the spread of the virus.”
“Nigerian with disabilities are the most vulnerable of the vulnerable population, as such we call for an all-inclusive prevention, response and control mechanism to ensure that persons with disabilities are not left behind in the management of this pandemic.
“We call on the Federal and State Government to ensure that all information relating to protection and control of the spread of the Coronavirus are disseminated in a disability-friendly format, to ensure that no one is left behind in the dissemination of public information about Coronavirus pandemic.”
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to implement the National Disability Act through the establishment of the National Commission for Persons with Disabilities and implement section 2 of the Act which provides that Federal Ministry of Information shall make provision for the creation of awareness regarding rights, respect, and dignity of persons with disabilities; capabilities, achievements, and contributions of persons with disabilities”
“In view of the directive and advice by the Federal and State Government to curtail the spread of the virus, the NGO will be putting on hold, all public functions and activities at the National and State levels. Should the spread of the virus continue, we may consider closing all our offices as we are not satisfied with the management of the pandemic by Federal Government of Nigeria.” David added.