Covid-19 national lockdown: People with disabilities hit hard times

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PEOPLE with disabilities in Bulawayo are among those worst affected by the national lockdown since a majority of them have no stable income.

Due to the stay-at-home order, the disabled persons can no longer access the central business district where some of them sell their wares.

For people living with disabilities, it is a nightmare not to be able to buy basic commodities such as mealie-meal due to pressure in the queues. They are also prone to contracting Covid-19 due to congestion in queues where the principle of social distancing is not maintained.

Some of them have underlying medical conditions hence queuing in crowded places puts them at high risk.

In separate interviews, disabled persons who spoke to Chronicle said they were now feeling the pinch following the lockdown.

Mr Possent Mlilo of Sizinda suburb, who uses a wheelchair, said the lockdown has adversely affected his airtime business as he cannot no longer frequent his selling point in the city centre.

“I eke out a living through selling sweets and airtime in town. I operate in the central business district between Herbert Chitepo Street and 8th Avenue and most of my clients are people who board Zupco buses during the peak hour.

“Due to the lockdown I can’t go out since I am not part of the people categorised as essential services,” he said.

“This has really affected my income as I am now spending the whole day stuck at home. I stay at our family home and no one is looking after me, which means I have to fend for myself.”

The initial three-week lockdown commenced on March 30 and upon expiry, a further 14 days were added. The national lockdown is part of measures by the Government to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce Raj Modi on Wednesday donated 535 bags of mealie meal to vulnerable groups in areas under Bulawayo South constituency. Among the 535 beneficiaries were the elderly, people living with disabilities and child headed families.

Another beneficiary, Ms Margaret Nyathi (80) of Tshabalala suburb is a widow who also looks after her six grandchildren, two of whom are orphans. She is partially blind.

“I used to move around the city selling small items such as sweets and brooms, but now due to my sight I can’t continue moving around. I’m now relying on my grandchildren, but now due to the lockdown, they can’t go to town to sell wares yet we need to eat. I am thankful, our MP, (Cde Raj Modi) donated a 10 bag of mealie meal to the disabled and I am also one of the beneficiaries,” she said.

She, however, commended the decision by the Government to extend the lockdown, saying it will save lives in view of the Covid-19, which continues to have devastating effects on humankind globally.

Mr Godfrey Ndlovu, an athlete, said the lockdown has greatly affected him as competitions, his sole source of livelihood, have been suspended due to Covid-19.

“As a sportsperson with physical disability, I eat sports, drink sports and sleep sports so the suspension of Paralympics among other sporting disciplines, has really affected me given that it is my source of income and in this case I am a father who has to look after his family,” he said.

“Disabled persons are exposed to Covid-19 especially in queues for mealie meal where there would be too much pressure and congestion such that the principle of social distancing is not maintained. In some case, you will realise that some of us would be having underlying medical conditions hence high chances of succumbing to the virus.”

Emmanuel Majole of Tshabalala suburb said he is a vendor and prior to the lockdown sold wares in town.

People living with disabilities made an emotional plea to Government, local companies and organisations to donate food hampers consisting of mealie-meal, sugar beans, cooking oil and vegetables.

The Minister of State for Bulawayo Provincial Affairs Minister Judith Ncube said more vulnerable people need assistance and urged well-wishers to join hands for the good cause.

“We would like to thank Cde Raj Modi who is the MP for Bulawayo South for this gesture. This donation will go a long way in saving the lives of many in the constituency as they are vulnerable and are not able to provide for themselves,” she said.

“People living with disabilities and other vulnerable groups affected by Covid-19 need our support.”

The Minister also commended the coordinators of the donation for maintaining social distancing among the beneficiaries.

Bulawayo has more than 100 000 elderly people who are unemployed and survive on handouts from generous donors and well-wishers.

— Chronicle


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