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Increasing Vulnerability and Neglect

Disability during COVID-19

COVID-19 and the resultant lockdowns have severely curtailed the mobility of persons with disabilities, restricted their ability to seek basic necessities, healthcare, and assistance. Uncertainty on the disbursement of financial protection schemes meant for persons with disabilities have exacerbated their existing financial precarity. At this juncture, obstacles in accessing healthcare should be identified, facilities should be made affordable, and financial support should be exclusively planned for persons with disabilities to save them from the dreadful risk of the coronavirus and its aftermath.

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unp­recedented public health crisis, and the attendant infections and fatality are concentrated in the lower strata of society in developing countries. It has also devastated developed countries, including the United States, Italy and United Kingdom. Poor health and socio-economic conditions widen the spread and susceptibility of COVID-19 in India. Increasingly, public medical facilities are getting overcrowded and failing to meet the massive demands of intensive care. Persons with disabilities (PWDs) is one of the segments of the population who face compounded vulnerability to contagious diseases and lack of access to necessary facilities. Globally, it is estimated that a billion people have one or more types of disability (WHO 2011). In India, 26.8 million people have one or more forms of disability (GoI 2011). The difficulties faced by PWDs in India are multidimensional in nature and their poor socio-economic conditions inc­rease the risk and vulnerability from the pandemic and prolonged lockdowns.

COVID-19 is intensifying the inequalities experienced by PWDs around the world. Often, information on disability is gathered remotely, rarely highlighting emergency preparedness during a disa­ster. Despite provisions made to ensure equal rights and responsibilities towards PWDs, they are neglected. Looking at their conditions amid COVID-19, the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have come up with a framework, and guidelines for protecting PWDs by ensuring possible measures to protect them from distressful economic conditions (WHO 2020; UN 2020a). The guidelines mention the role of healthcare institutions and healthcare professionals in maintaining compliance for the inclusive development of PWDs (Armitage and Nellums 2020). Detection, assessment, treatment, escalation and recovery are the main steps that have been evoked to tackle COVID-19, and during the assessment phase, the strategy of test, isolate and treat has been followed in the current approach to mitigate COVID-19 in the West (Watkins 2020). The role of local governments to cater to the needs of PWDs has been emphasised in view of the pandemic by the UN (2020b). An online survey undertaken on PWDs across India by the Nati­onal Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP) highlights the difficulties faced during the COVID-19 crisis, including problems in accessing essential items, medicines and pension.

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Updated On : 28th Sep, 2020

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