The impact of Covid-19 has been felt worldwide. Fortunately, the outbreak in Uganda has not been as bad as experienced in parts of the Americas or Europe. This is indeed fortunate as Uganda does not have the same healthcare system to be able to cope with such an outbreak. Here in the UK, whilst we have been hit hard, we have been indebted to our key workers within the NHS.
Uganda locked down hard to curb the spread of the coronavirus and restrictions began easing in June. Whilst it can be said that people in Uganda have all faced the same storm in terms of the COVID outbreak and national lockdown, they have certainly not all been in the same boat. Those most marginalised, most vulnerable, and most impoverished have suffered more as they don’t have the coping strategies to deal with such shocks.
Disabled people in Uganda experience disproportionately high rates of extreme poverty than their non-disabled peers. In a society that was already quite inaccessible for disabled people, the post COVID conditions on re-opening society has risked marginalising disabled people even more.
Such conditions include reduced capacity on public transport and the compulsory wearing of face masks. This has impacted disabled people’s ability to move from their home as public transport cannot accommodate the extra space they may require.
However, more significantly, many disabled people cannot afford even a basic face mask, which has resulted in many disabled people being isolated in their homes. Any savings that they may have had have been drained throughout the lockdown period and has placed many in an extremely vulnerable situation, often at the mercy of begging.
Signpost International have been working with a local Disabled Persons Organisation (DPO) called SODIPU, who work for the promotion of human rights and economic empowerment of disabled people. This month, in partnership with SODIPU, we launched an emergency piece of funding to support disabled people in Soroti district (in the North East of Uganda) to access face masks.
We will provide training to members of one of SODIPU’s Self-Help Groups (SHGs) so that they can produce their own face masks. Through your support as a global neighbour, we will provide them with all the materials required and a sewing machine to enable the SHG to produce face masks for 560 disabled people. However, we will accompany the training with basic business skills training providing the SHG with an opportunity to provide an income-generating opportunity by selling their masks to the wider population. This will provide an important income source that SODIPU will reinvest into its SHG programmes that provide local disabled people with vocational skills training.
The funding will also provide important health and hygiene awareness education campaigns to help stop the spread of Coronavirus and other infectious diseases. Such awareness raising will cover the importance of face masks, how and when they should be worn, the importance and timing of correct hand washing procedures, and the importance of social distancing.
We will keep you updated on the progress of this project, but on behalf of everyone at SODIPU and the people you will be helping, we want to extend a big thank you to all our global neighbours as it is your support that has enabled us to do this.