Assessment shows persons with disabilities in Zimbabwe experience severe impact of COVID-19

The UNESCO Regional Office for Southern Africa  conducted a Rapid Assessment on the impact of COVID-19 on Persons with disabilities in Zimbabwe from August to November 2020, which  found out that persons with disabilities have  experienced many challenges brought about and/or worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic and the related lockdown and containment measures.

Persons with disabilities and representatives from Organisations that represent them were the primary research population targeted by the assessment. Their views and stories form the core of the findings.

The assessment found out that due to lockdown regulations, the livelihoods of persons with disabilities have been negatively affected    resulting in other social ills such as anxiety and increase in gender-based violence mainly faced by women and girls with disabilities. The study findings confirmed the hypothesis that the wellbeing of persons with disabilities has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and the lockdown measures, as stated by the United Nations Policy Brief -A Disability Inclusive Response to COVID-19, released in May 2020.

Access to services such as healthcare, education, justice, accessible information have been severely affected by the lockdown restrictions put in place to reduce the spreading of the coronavirus. The banning of informal livelihood activities such as vending and begging has led to persons with disabilities experiencing acute challenges, as their sources of income have been disrupted. According to the study, income per month for persons with disabilities in the sample shrunk by 50% from ZW 2160.00 (US$43) per month pre-COVID-19 to ZW1080.00 (US$13) per month during COVID-19 period. This is against a poverty datum line of ZW 17957.00 (US$219) per month for a family of five.

Access to food and nutrition has been severely affected. Food aid from government, humanitarian organizations, churches, civil society organizations and individuals has been reduced, as a result of COVID-19 and lockdown measures having disrupted business operations. While government provides free medical services to registered persons with disabilities, drugs are in short supply in designated healthcare centers and the data shows that not all deserving persons with disabilities are accessing the services during the COVID-19 period.  The study reveals that the number of meals for persons with disabilities nationally have been reduced from three (3) pre-COVID-19, to one (1) or two (2) during COVID-19.
Women and girls with disabilities experience challenges accessing Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) services, a challenge that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

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