How women living with disabilities are protecting themselves from COVID-19
In a bid to fight the battle of preventing the COVI-19 pandemic, women living with disabilities have vowed to put in more effort to fight the spread of the virus. Donatille Kanimba, the executive Director of Rwanda Union of the Blind (RUB), emphasizes that to prevent oneself from spreading or acquiring the virus, one requires to put in more effort as an individual. Rwanda Union of the Blind has over 3000 members according to Kanimba. She said that some people living with disabilities become disabled as a result of other diseases such as diabetes, meaning they could spread or acquire the virus easily.
“For a person with visual impairment to move, she needs a guide. And since people have understood the COVID-19 prevention guidelines, whenever you ask someone to guide you, they wonder how they can help, yet social distancing should be respected,” she said. “It is not possible to keep one meter distance when you are with a guide, and getting in contact with someone who is guiding you, requires that you use hand-sanitizer to clean your hands, and your white cane, otherwise, you could get contaminated if the one who is guiding you is COVID-19 positive.”
Claire Mukanganizi lives with a physical disability and uses a wheelchair to move around easily. She says that she is always cautious about acquiring the virus, and consequently tries to get all the necessary protective materials such as hand-sanitizer, as well as washing her hands regularly. She also says she makes sure that her wheelchair is cleaned properly with sanitizer, especially when someone has assisted her. “It is easy for us to get contaminated, we touch objects very often, and therefore I have to always wash my hands and clean my supportive gear,” she said. Furthermore, as women they are more likely to contaminate their children or their relatives when they are caring for them at home, Mukanganizi shared. “The equipment we use to support ourselves, should be cleaned with sanitizers, and I have to ensure that my hands are also cleaned to ensure that I am not infected or likely to contaminate my children at home,” she said. “I make sure to respect COVID-19 guidelines in order to prevent myself and my family from COVID-19, this is a global pandemic and can impact us negatively if we ignore these prevention measures,” she adds.
According to Emmanuel Ndayisaba, the Executive Secretary of National Council for Persons with Disability (NCPD), urges persons living with disabilities to join others in the fight against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. “Persons with disability need to understand that they should use all available means to protect themselves, and if they do so, they will help protect their family members as well as society in general,” said Ndayisaba. “They are encouraged to leave their houses only when they have a much-needed reason to, and once out of their houses, they have to be careful enough to protect themselves from getting the virus.”
He said that people living with disabilities, whose jobs were halted or those who were vulnerable, were supported to get protective equipment such as facemasks. They also received food, and hygienic items to help them survive, according to Ndayisaba. There are over 400,000 people living with disabilities in the country according to official figures from the National Institute of Statistics.
By Marie Anne Dushimimana