Vihema rolls out intervention to protect people with deafblindness from Covid-19

Visual Hearing Impairment Membership Association (VIHEMA DeafBlind Malawi) says it is worried with the inefficiency in managing deafblindness by those tasked to lead the fight against the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic in Malawi.

Hawkins Munyenyembe, Research, Advocacy and Training officer for VIHEMA

The situation has since prompted VIHEMA DeafBlind Malawi to start implementing an intervention which will enable it to work with relevant stakeholders in ensuring that people with deafblindness are protected from covid-19.

Deafblindness is a disability of a combination of visual impairment and hearing impairment in an individual.

Advocacy and Research Officer for VIHEMA DeafBlind Malawi, Hawkins Munyenyembe, told Nyasa Times that their concern is heightened by the fact that people with such condition are increasing and that most of them are not being reached with covid-19 messages and protective materials.

“We appreciate what the government and other partners are already doing in managing the pandemic so that it is contained.

“However, our anxiety comes in when we note that people with deafblindness are not being accommodated in various response plans that aim at reducing people’s risks to contracting the virus.

“The efforts so far show no elements of managing people with deafblindness, a situation we fear can lead to disaster because such condition constitute a significant proportion of the population of people with disabilities,” said Munyenyembe.

Munyenyembe added that their intervention, among other things, seeks to orient frontline health workers on management of deafblindness and consult city, municipal, town and district councils on how they can manage deafblindness through their health committees.

“We will also be focusing on disinfectants; are they accessible to the deafblind? What about equipment for interpreters and guides; are they being distributed across the country?

“All these efforts will lead us to appreciating how important it is if everyone is taken on board. Everybody must be safe from this pandemic,” he said.

According to Munyenyembe, most of the activities of their intervention will be done through online conferences, press statements, live television and radio advocacy in compliance with prescribed covid-19 preventive measures and to ensure the safety of their staff, members and partners.

The intervention is being done with funds from a pilot project aimed at mainstreaming deafblindness in Early Childhood Development (ECD) and in inclusive education in primary schools, which is also being implemented by VIHEMA DeafBlind Malawi with support from Disability Rights Fund (DRF).

Malawi has so far 17 confirmed cases of covid-19 and reported two deaths due to the pandemic.

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