Furthering a disability-inclusive Nigeria amidst COVID-19

“Disability is part of the human condition. Almost everyone will be temporarily or permanently impaired at some point in life, and those who survive into old age will increasingly have difficulty functioning. “ World Disability Report.

This means that impairment is inevitable to some extent World Disability Report. Living life with this awareness is just prudent. Indeed, such awareness not only begins in the home but also carries over to the workplace and society. Understanding that everyone gets old at some point demystifies the concept of disability. In addition, promote the rights of people with disabilities within a society.

The pioneers of this endeavor are international Organizations who fight for the inclusion of disabilities worldwide. A work that arose out of the understanding that equal access is not only a humanitarian endeavor, but also brings great economic gains. The United Nations sums it up in a nutshell: “People with disabilities (PWD) are the greatest untapped resource on the planet.”

Actually, a 2004 World Bank survey, estimated annual global loss in the twelve-digit range ($ 1.71 to $ 2.23 trillion) through exclusion.

Realities of Living with a Disability in Nigeria

For typical Nigerian households, members with disabilities are theirs Responsibility, challenge and secret shame. While cared for (PWDs), members discourage public interaction for fear of shame. This unspoken rule often encourages a pre-existing stigma about PWDs. And such embarrassment contributes significantly to social and economic exclusion and denial of vital services such as health care and education.

The story remains unchanged in the workforce, where six out of ten people with disabilities are unemployed. In the same surveyIt showed how a significant majority of people with disabilities are forced to live from hand to mouth. In fact, it shows that people with disabilities are more likely to be affected by extreme poverty than their counterparts. It is worth noting that when people with disabilities are actually employed, they are prone to several discriminatory employment practices.

In addition to economic impoverishment, the systemic exclusion of people with disabilities is important. In a functioning society, governments value equal access and inclusivity to their social goods. This consideration is reflected in architectural floor plans, healthcare facilities and educational infrastructures. Unfortunately, this is not the case in Nigeria, where it would be difficult to count ten public buildings with ramp access. Not to mention the inadequate infrastructure for transporting people with disabilities.

In the health sector There is a lack of rehabilitation services for people with disabilities in primary health care centers, if available. One study notes in particular the lack of rehabilitation services in leprosy stricken communities in Niger and Kogi. What is more? 61 percent of the indigenous people are unemployed.

The researchers observed the most common impairments associated with vision, mobility and hearing problems. But without employment or help from PHCs, the PWDs in the community are stranded.

Lack of data for PWD in Africa’s largest economy

In other countries, the inadequacy of data for people with disabilities is another challenge for the most populous nation in Africa. A problem that often results in different statistics.

In one case it is World Health Organization (WHO) in 2018 the Nigerian PWD was 29 million; The criterion was dysfunction, that is, difficulty performing sensory and cognitive tasks. In contrast, it is 2018 Nigerian Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) claimed that seven percent of the Nigerian population (14 million) suffered from some form of impairment. The report further estimated that one percent of the population had a severe disability, equivalent to one million Nigerians.

Overall, the National Population Commission of Nigeria (NPC) estimates that 19 million Nigerians were living with disabilities. That was back in 2018. Two years have passed and there are no official statistics on this. Don’t think about the current economic and health climate.

The Impact of COVID-19: Challenges and Missed Opportunities

Speaking of the health climate: The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated health systems worldwide. And for many, the mandatory restrictions on movement meant an end to essential health services. This interruption was more documented in developing countries, which reportedly lacked vaccinations, family planning and mental health services for the most part WHO pulse survey.

In essence, COVID-19 worsened an already challenging situation for PWDs. The not-for-profit Premium Times Center for Investigative Journalism (PTCIJ) raised these concerns in a virtual meeting. The webinar was led by the Health Project and the Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption Project (ROLAC) and brought together several PWD proponents for a discourse. Present were vocal PWD activists, Gbenga Ogundare as moderator and Jessica Odudu, a PTCIJ program leader, as a panelist. Other panellists included Idemudia Lawrence from the National Commission for People with Disabilities (NCPWD) and Jake Epelle, founder of the Albino Foundation.

Indeed, this online dialogue took place during prime time on the occasion of the United Nations (UN) International Day for People with Disabilities. celebrated every December 3rd. In accordance with the UN theme “Better to back up: towards a handicapped-friendly, accessible and sustainable world after COVID-19”, PTCIJ addressed its discourse “Post-COVID-19: Promoting a handicapped-friendly and accessible Nigeria”. .

The discussions in this webinar focused on three specific areas – the lives of people with disabilities in Nigeria before COVID-19 during the pandemic and the recommendation for a Nigeria after COVID-19. Before the rise in COVID-19 cases and its impact, Jake Epelle noted that life had already been a challenge for people with disabilities. He said: “Even before Corona, people with disabilities had to struggle with inclusion. Inclusion in all areas. During Covid-19, the battle over PWD intensified. “

With the Movement restrictions, Most citizens with health problems have had difficulty accessing health services. Not to mention people with disabilities; The observed effects are reflected in the statistics on health promoting behaviors. In addition, the government did not take PWD into account in its planning.

Again, the pandemic accidentally used remote work due to distancing protocols. Instead of having regular meetings, the employees “zoomed in”. This became the new normal. However, with little consideration for people with disabilities.

For example, at one point during the lockdown, the government asked its 14th grade workers to work from home. but said little in providing facilities, particularly for PWDs, to do so successfully. This was a missed opportunity to take advantage of the situation and introduce technology to working with PWDs.

The Future for PWD in Nigeria: Advances After COVID-19

PWDs have always struggled to be recognized as independent beings with rights that would enable them to thrive in society. The government’s recognition led to the passage of the Discrimination Against People with Disabilities (Prohibition) Act of 2019. This was a huge step towards a better future for people with disabilities across Nigeria. However, this future cannot be achieved if the government does not take the necessary measures to implement the laws it has created.

Mr Epelle recommended that key stakeholders do everything they can to ensure that PWD does not lag behind. He suggested that during the recovery period from a calamity like the COVID-19 pandemic, governments will certainly make aggressive efforts to promote job creation, entrepreneurship and other macroeconomic indices. Mr. Epelle also suggested the engagement of HR practitioners at various levels as they are often the gatekeepers of these opportunities for PWD.

Indeed, the national organization of human resource professionals has committed itself to contracting out organizations that want to provide opportunities for people with disabilities. In order for this to happen, the PWD lawyer called on the community to “acquire skills and train us”. They (PWDs) use such possibilities if necessary. Again, Mr. Epelle urged the PWDs to participate in the political space so that their voices could be heard.

In conclusion, Mr Epelle suggested that the Treasury Department create incentives for the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace. He gave the example of tax breaks for organizations with people with disabilities.

Mr. Lawrence spoke about the inadequacy of data on people with disabilities and challenged culpable parties. According to Lawrence, data continues to hamper progress in Nigeria. So with improved data, we can better plan to promote inclusion and access to disabilities. The availability of data is also important for government officials and decision makers to develop better strategies that fill the observed void in the economy.

For Ms. Odudu, the best results would come from a multi-faceted approach. However, she found that comprehensive overarching systems are required to address the challenge. The first steps outlined were recovery and rehabilitation initiatives for people with disabilities.

Closely related are positive strategies that promote existing inclusion policies. Ms. Odudu also stressed the need to “remove and prevent architectural and design barriers for handicapped Nigerians”. These were part of the systemic efforts of the ROLAC program officer and suggested assistive technologies to assist people with disabilities.

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