Friday, 19 Mar 2021
People with Disabilities must be prioritised in PNG’s COVID-19 response
CBM welcomes the Federal Government’s emergency coronavirus vaccines for Papua New Guinea (PNG), while urging authorities to ensure people with disabilities are included in the roll out.
The Government has promised 8,000 immediate vaccinations for frontline health care workers as PNG health systems struggle with a surge in COVID-19 cases and rapid community transmission. A further 1 million vaccines will then be available for the wider population.
“People with disabilities must be consulted and actively in any rollout plan,” CBM CEO Jane Edge said. “Shocking figures are emerging about the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities, which we just can’t ignore.”
Data from high-income countries suggests that people with disabilities are more likely to die from COVID-19, making up for more than 50% of all deaths. This figure is likely to be even higher in low-and middle income countries like PNG, where access to healthcare, protective equipment and vaccines is limited.
Anecdotally, we are hearing that people with disabilities have concerns about what will happen if they contract the virus, fearing that due to stigma and discrimination, the health care system will treat them last.
Adrian, who recently featured in CBM’s #BetterWorldForAll video, is a PNG local and lives with a disability. Adrian told us that “In the past week, we have witnessed an increase in the number of COVID 19 positive cases in the nation’s capital and in the provincial capitals across the country.”
“Our concerns as people with disabilities are that not enough is being done to address our needs.”
Adrian told us about a woman with a disability who, due to lockdowns, was unable to travel to PNG’s capital for medical treatment. She faced significant costs to see a local doctor, which caused additional stress during a lockdown that has already severely impacted her ability to earn a living.
Adrian continued, “What we need in PNG, is a bold move by the Government of PNG to explicitly ‘include’ us by ensuring that there are referral and support pathways to accessing any COVID-19 support. Utilising the networks of the Churches, the Inclusive Education Resource Centres and the Organisations of People with Disabilities (OPDs) to distribute Essential Emergency Food Packages, clean and safe drinking water and proper sanitation to people with disabilities most in need and at-risk is a sure way to have our needs included.”
CBM is determined to see people with disabilities receive the public health advice and lifesaving treatment they need. We are calling for all public health information to be made accessible as a matter of urgency, and for all COVID-19 response measures to be inclusive, taking into account the needs of people with disabilities.