Impact of COVID-19 on Persons Living with Disabilities


By: Kebba AF Touray

COVID-19 continued to claim lives across the world, causing serious health concerns and nightmare. This made the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare the virus as a global pandemic.

The disease was first confirmed in the Gambia on 17th March 2020. Currently, the country’s COVID-19 status shows that the Gambia has 5,857 coronavirus cases, 173 deaths and 5,282 recoveries.

Not only does it have the potential to claim lives, it brought the world to a complete standstill in all spheres, resulting in its devastating effects on the lives and livelihoods of the people, some of whom are persons living with disabilities.

This interview aims to bring to light the adverse effects of the pandemic by unearthing the impact of the pandemic on persons living with disabilities.

Magistrate Muhammed Krubally, is a Principal Magistrate of Brusubi Magistrates Court and the Chairperson of the Gambia Federation for Disabled (GFD).

Photo: Magistrate Krubally

Magistrate Krubally, who also doubles as the Secretary General of the Gambia Organization of the Visually Impaired (GOVI), said COVID-19 has negatively affected the lives and livelihoods of persons with disabilities economically, socially, educationally and employment.

Economically, he said since the outbreak of the pandemic, persons with disabilities could not have the fiscal strength, support or accessibility in order to take care of their needs and their families.

He said in terms of social life: “There have regulations in terms of curfew, social distancing and restriction of the movement of people. Most of the persons with disabilities, who depend on begging, could not go out to seek financial support.”

“In terms of education, there had been lockdown and schools have been closed. The online classes that were introduced, most of the persons with disability, could not participate, because they do not have the facilities, such as laptops, especially the visually impaired people,” he added.

He also said that in terms of employment, some of financial institutions were closed down. As a result, he said some of the persons with disabilities were considered redundant and some have lost their jobs due to strict economic condition COVID-19 has imposed on institutions.

Ndey Yassin Secka, Nominated Member of the National Assembly, a female visually impaired lawmaker, who has been an advocate for the person living with disabilities, said persons with disabilities are somewhat neglected in the country. As such, she has taken it as her obligation to fight for their rights.

“COVID-19 has seriously affected person living with disabilities because some of them could not even go out during the restriction periods to beg for alms and some of them cannot use the facemasks properly,” she said.

“Persons with disabilities are more affected because most of them go into the streets to beg for sustenance. During the restriction period, they were asked to stay indoors. They were also isolated as some people don’t give them alms, due to fear that they may contract the disease form persons with disabilities.”

Madam Secka urged the citizenry to strictly adhere to health guidelines provided by the health ministry and health experts, noting that the pandemic is still around.

Ousman Sillah is the Member for Banjul North and the Chairperson of the National Assembly Select Committee on Health, Women, Children, Refugees, Disaster and Humanitarian Relief.

Photo: Hon. Ousman Sillah

Sillah said COVID-19 has created disruptions in the lives and livelihoods of persons with disabilities through the imposition of the state of emergencies and restriction periods.

“These periods have been the most challenging phase of the pandemic because people who live from hand to mouth were obliged to stay indoors. Most of those who are physically challenged have fallen in this situation, where the restriction of their movement has affected their income generation,” he said.

“Most of the physically challenged are living within the poverty bracket and were adversely impacted by the Pandemic. During the restriction periods, they were barred from going out to beg for alms, which they use to cater for themselves and families.”

Sillah also implored the citizenry to observe the health measures recommended by health experts, saying the pandemic is still in existence and claiming lives of the people.