By: Ange de la Victoire DUSABEMUNGU
As the corona virus keeps the whole world awake, certain groups of people are more at risk of being infected and facing severe food shortages due to their disabilities which limit their capacity for self-protection and self-reliance during these hardship times.
Like any other part of the World, the corona virus Pandemic has brought added worry for visually impaired persons whose lives depend on the white cane and guides mostly to perform their daily activities.
Apart from being confronted by food shortage, the visually impaired persons are also afraid of getting contaminated since it is a very challenging time when everyone is asked to observe the required distance between one person to another as part of the measures announced to control the spread of the deadly virus.
Musabyimana Patricie, a visually impaired resident of Kigarama, in Kicukiro District, City of Kigali told TOPAFRICANEWS reporter on Wednesday that “this time, visually impaired persons are very challenged, since we are not able to comply with all instructions as announced by the Government.”
She added that “For instance, we are urged to ensure that there is a distance of one meter between two people, however with our disabilities we always need a guide when we want to go out for instance in the market. Now it is impossible to have that guide, we go alone which is now putting us at risk”
“Again, we are living with our little means as some of us are no longer attending our daily jobs,
“Going to purchase food is also difficult because there is no one to guide us. Imagine how a visually impaired person will avoid touching someone in the market when he/she can’t guess who is behind her/him?” She asks.
Musabyimana appealed for special support to visually impaired persons during this time with at least “Means that can help them purchase food every week.”
She added that “We have heard that we all need to wear face masks, however most of us will not be able to purchase those masks, this also should be an issue to be looked at among many needs for not only visually impaired persons but also to all persons with disabilities.”
In general, none of Rwandans was aware that the country will enter in this situation where the virus has totally led to the total lockdown.
The virus has stopped almost the entire community to stop their daily businesses that allow them to make a living.
Severin Ingabire, Advisor of the Board of the Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB) revealed that the pandemic has heavily affected the entire family of Persons with visual impairments.
He explains that those who had jobs have lost their service contract since most of services have stopped during the lockdown.
“We have some young visually impaired persons who used to make a living from massage therapy services. These young people are no longer at work because, the service is among those heavily affected businesses.” Ingabire said.
He added that, he also, is among those who lost their jobs in this time noting that the major challenge is access to food.
“We know well that Government is giving support to needy persons, but there was no special attention to people with disabilities. We have heard all announcement for those who can have access to radio, but there was no announcement on the special categories like persons with disabilities.” Ingabire explains.
He calls on the Government and other donors to support special categories by following what is treasured in various treaties and conventions signed for persons with disabilities.
The Article 11 of the UN Conventions on persons with disabilities reads that “States Parties shall take, in accordance with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, all necessary measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in situations of risk, including situations of armed conflict, humanitarian emergencies and the occurrence of natural disasters.[/I]”
Rachel Musabyimana, in charge of communication and advocacy at Rwanda Union of the Blind told TOPAFRICANEWS that “currently, the members of the Union of the blind are facing hard times than ever before.
She said that these people are not able to have enough and accurate information on Corona Virus-COVID 19 depending on their respective disabilities and households means.
There are some who have integrated disabilities, among them there are those who can’t hear and see. It is obvious that the situation is complicated for such communities.
“There is a need for special attention for persons with disabilities in general.” She said.
“Really, we commend the government for intervention provided so far, however during this time of COVID 19, the persons with visual impairments and many other persons with disabilities should be supported as possible as it should.
“They used to get support from various donors, but the complicated situation has put almost our benefactors in a situation where is impossible to provide like it was before.” Musabyimana informs.
TOPAFRICANEWS has phoned the Secretary General of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities for a comment on the issue, in vain, he didn’t pick our phone and no response to the SMS we sent to him until we publish this article.
However, this news website has learnt that there are several meetings that have been arranged between the council leaders and Civil Society Organizations to see how persons with disabilities as a special category can be supported during this complicated situation.