MHRC condemns exclusion of PWDs in Covid-19 initiatives

Lilongwe, October 27th, Mana: A recent report conducted by Malawi Human Rights Commission (MHRC) indicates that Persons with disabilities (PWDs) and Organizations of Persons with Disabilities (OPDs) have been largely excluded in planning, designing and execution of COVID-19 responses since its advent.

This was revealed on Wednesday in Lilongwe when MHRC engaged stakeholders to disseminate findings on a human rights based research into COVID-19 related violations in Malawi with a focus on persons with disabilities. 

In a study that was carried in Lilongwe, Blantyre, Zomba and Mzuzu between 2020 and 2021, it was established that there has been minimal to no representation of PWDs or OPDs in almost all clusters responsible for designing and implementing the COVID-19 measures.

MHRC's Executive Secretary, Habiba Osman presenting findings and recommendations of the report during the workshop (Picture by Joseph Chikalipo)

Key areas in which PWDs have been negatively impacted include rights to education, health, economic activity, freedom of movement, employment and access to justice.

In education for instance, owing to the closure of schools, online learning was introduced but the arrangement sidelined persons with hearing impairment and those with visual impairment particularly on materials.

The report further indicates some measures pose a great risk of exposing them to the virus particularly those who crawl on surfaces as well those who rely on sticks as they also require human support hence defeating the notion of social distancing.

Chairperson for Malawi Human Rights Commission, Scader Louis, called for a comprehensive redesigning of interventions in order to address the gaps that have led to the deprivation of rights of PWDs.

She said: “We need a unified purpose to deal with the pandemic because clearly our family and friends with disabilities are being left out in many initiatives which is a great concern for this continues to put them at risk.”

Louis: The report will ensure person's with disabilities are included and actively participate in interventions - (Picture by Joseph Chikalipo)

“As MHRC, we will ensure total compliance of the recommendations from the government, development partners and even us, the commission, so that we should all be at the same level in this fight against COVID-19.”

In regards to provision of health care services, MHRC found that despite the country’s effort in diverting much of its efforts in the health system, there has been a profound neglect towards the provision of other services to persons with disabilities.

Lack of user-friendly PPEs, availability of lotions to Persons with Albinism, closure of clinics offering mental health and access to Sexual and Reproductive Health services are some of the challenges which have rocked this sector. 

In his remarks in a separate interview, FEDOMA President Simon Munde, expressed no surprise with the findings but he was quick to commend MHRC for the report while being optimistic of changes.

Munde: people with special needs were not consulted

“These findings are coming in because we were not consulted as people with special needs however moving forward, we would like to see the fruition of these recommendations not forgetting distribution of cash transfer to cushion adverse economic effects.”

Meanwhile, the United Nations Resident Office in Malawi has pledged continued assistance towards successful implementations of the recommendations.