'I feel bad that people with disabilities are not a priority'
Lyness is 56 and lives in Blantyre, Malawi. She has a physical disability, works as a wedding service provider (of cakes and decorations) and is acting executive director of PODCAM (Parents of disabled children association of Malawi). She is also a member of Disabled Women in Development (DIWODE). She lives with her husband, daughter, grandchild, and her sister’s daughter who is an orphan. She supports her children with food, clothes, and school fees, and her husband also supports her.
COVID-19 has affected my wedding service business because most weddings were cancelled due to the restrictions that were imposed by the government. As a result, I could not carry on with wedding decorations as well as the provision of wedding cakes. I resorted to selling tomatoes and vegetables from my farm to boost my income, but it has been a challenge because I can only sell from home and the proceeds are minimal.
In terms of office work, we are not able to go the field and have limited days to go to the office. Before COVID-19, life was good because I had so many customers to serve, but right now I have very few customers. This is affecting my day-to-day life because it is the business that was giving me money. I am just happy that we can pay our rentals, electricity, and water. But in terms of food, we have adjusted on what to eat.
I have heard that the vaccines are in the country. But I do not know the plans of the government. I have heard that the ‘most vulnerable’ will be prioritised but not necessarily persons with disabilities. I feel bad that people with disabilities are not a priority, yet they are mostly at risk. I use crutches, and sometimes when using staircases, I have to use handrails which are touched by so many people for support. Chances of me and any other person with a disability catching the virus are therefore high. Access to PPE by people with disabilities, who are mostly poor, is also a challenge.
To access the vaccine, mobility to the various health centres [may be a challenge] unless services will be mobile. I also fear discrimination and negative attitudes, which have always been there. The accessibility of the health facilities might also be a barrier.
Since am getting old, my worry is what will happen if I get COVID-19. Yet the government has not prioritised people with disabilities on COVID-19 related services.