Separate block set up for PWDs at the quarantine facility in Meriema. (Morung Photo)
Atono Tsükrü Kense
Kohima | April 4
Nagaland has taken the laudable step to make provisions for the disabled community in its preparedness for the COVID-19 pandemic, by setting up a separate block for Persons with Disabilities(PWDs) with eight beds at the quarantine facility at Meriema in Kohima.
As the whole world battles the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that discrimination against people with disability will increase unless governments take proactive steps. This is because the existing barriers that people with disabilities face at the best of times are likely to be exacerbated in a crisis situation.
For instance, PWDs already do not have access to healthcare and in a health crisis such as the present one that the world finds itself in, there is the possibility that they will be left out of the response unless steps are taken to specifically include them in all the prevention, mitigation and treatment measures.
The WHO has further stated that PWDs may be more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 because of barriers to implementing basic hygiene measures, such as hand washing, difficulty in enacting social distancing because of additional support needs and the need to touch things to obtain information from the environment or for physical support. PWDs may also be at greater risk of developing more severe cases of COVID-19, if they become infected because of existing health conditions, particularly those related to respiratory function, immune system function, heart disease or diabetes.
Speaking to The Morung Express, State Commissioner for Persons with Disabilities (SCPD) Diethono Nakhro concurred that Nagaland is probably the only state to have made provisions for the disabled community and appreciated the state government for its response to the need of the community.
Though the facilities are not perfect, western toilets have been put in for their convenience, ramps have been built and extra rooms have been provided for caregivers, she informed. Nakhro further maintained that all the districts must follow suit and make similar provisions.
Nakhro had written to the Chief Secretary calling for clear directives to ensure access to healthcare, including life-saving measures are provided and discrimination against people with disabilities are avoided at all cost.
The Chief Secretary was also appraised for all information and awareness materials to be put into accessible format as well as sign language.
Nakhro, however, stated that she was not aware of any awareness programmes specifically for the disabled community, adding that the PWDs community has been trying to spread the word to help those who may not be getting proper information.
She further emphasised that all hospitals providing services related to COVID-19 must be made completely accessible, including accessible toilets, while also stating that in many cases of PWDs who need hospital care, family members and caregivers will be required to be present and therefore, protocols must be put in place to ensure that this is made possible.
Besides the health risks, the State Commissioner also pointed out that people with disabilities and their families face greater difficulties during this lockdown period, adding, “it must be remembered that many of these families would already have been in dire straits, coping on a day to day basis, even before this crisis.”
Similarly, Nakhro has written to all the DCs highlighting the disability inclusive guidelines for protection and safety of PWDs during COVID 19 situation, understanding their disability specific requirements, daily living activities and take appropriate and timely measures to ensure their protection and safety.
The Churches were also requested through a letter, to support PWDs and their families where needed, by helping them acquire food supplies, medicines, etc, or to help them avail of medical treatment should the need arise.
“Disabled people and their families cannot be allowed to fall through the cracks of the Covid-19 crisis and the Church can play a huge role in making sure that this does not happen’ the letter stated.
Nakhro informed that one can contact 8258953837 or email at email@example.com for any disability specific issues.