Stakeholders in Zimbabwe validated a report of the rapid assessment of the impact of Covid-19 on persons with disabilities during a virtual meeting held on 20th November 2020. The meeting brought together more than 40 stakeholders from UN agencies, government institutions, Organisations of Persons with Disabilities, disability rights advocates and other stakeholders with to review and validate the findings of the assessment and dialogue on the way forward to ensure disability inclusive Covid-19 interventions and recovery plans.
The UNESCO-commissioned rapid assessment sought to understand and assess the impact of COVID-19 and of the government’s response to it on persons with disabilities in Zimbabwe, and formulate relevant recommendations for a disability-inclusive national response on the immediate and medium terms. The findings of the assessment shall inform the UN’s Common Country Assessment (CCA) to ensure the development of a disability inclusive Zimbabwe United Nations Development Cooperation Framework (2021-2025).
In his official opening remarks, UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa, Professor Hubert Gijzen, stressed that UNESCO and partners were guided by the principle of leaving no one behind. He said relevant information and data on COVID-19’s impact on persons with disabilities was missing, posing the risk of leaving out disability specific interventions when drawing response plans. Professor Gijzen also emphasised integrating disability rights and targeted support in the National COVID-19 Response Plan and the Recovery phases.
UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, Ms. Gabriela Ramos said the intervention was extremely important, as it will bring out the challenges faced by persons with disabilities during the pandemic and recommendations to improve their wellbeing.
Mr. Guardiner Manikai, the Consultant who conducted the assessment presented the key findings that included shrinking livelihoods, increased levels of gender-based violence (GBV), limited access to health and inclusive education services and limited access to information.
Honorable Joshua Malinga, Special Advisor on Disability Affairs in the Office of President and Cabinet (Zimbabwe) said going forward stakeholders should ensure that all COVID-19 responses are disability inclusive and called for persons with disabilities presenting symptoms to be prioritised for testing. He also emphasised the identification and removal of barriers to treatment – ensuring accessible built environment (hospitals, testing and quarantine facilities) as well as availability and dissemination of health information and communication in accessible modes, means and formats (braille, sign language etc.)
The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected persons with disabilities across the world. The International Disability Alliance (IDA) and WHO say that persons with disabilities are more likely to face more barriers during a humanitarian crisis, unless some practical solutions are availed to effectively address the range of risks. The United Nations Disability Inclusion Strategy recognises that the rights of persons with disabilities are central to the promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, whereby the principle of Leaving No one Behind requires transformative and lasting change, particularly, during times of crisis.