Almost a month after Uganda applied national confinement and curfew, 25-year-old blind and deaf Willy Oloya was shot by a team of Local Defense Units in the northern Agago district.
On April 30, during the strict curfew due to the coronavirus, agents from the Local Defense Units tried to speak to Oloya, who was walking. But Oloya couldn't see or hear them and kept walking when officers shot him in the leg. Oloya had her leg amputated and now she has another disability that could have been avoided.
But Willy Oloya who has hearing and speech impairments did not. The 25-year-old resident of Mugila West Village in Agago District, was shot 5 times in the leg, by LDU personnel enforcing the 7pm to 6.30am curfew. https://t.co/4NtjWnndLz pic.twitter.com/8umM4H00Xy
– Kweeta (@KweetaUganda) May 11, 2020
But Willy Oloya, who is hearing and vision impaired, no. This 25-year-old inhabitant of the Mugila West village, in the Agago district, was shot five times in the leg by personnel from the Local Defense Units during the curfew from 7 pm to 6.30 am.
Oloya's injury and additional disability are directly linked to the Government's lack of consideration towards people with disabilities in the execution of the national plan of confinement. About 16.5% of Ugandans have a disability.
Advocacy and substantial pressure around the Oloya incident was required for persons with disabilities to be adequately represented in the national COVID-19 group on its risk communication committee.
In Uganda, the needs of marginalized people, especially people with disabilities, were not considered at all in President Yoweri Museveni's COVID-19 directives.
Betty Achana, who works for the National Union of Women with Disabilities, told Global Voices:
One of our first interventions was for me to engage with our line ministry and to say that these directives are not even of the special needs of persons with disabilities. We instantly began to get news of how the directives were impacting them (PWDs) negatively. They had no information on what COVID is, how it is spread, who is COVID affecting, what the directives are about. People did not know about curfew. That is how the boy in the north gets shot. That is how the girl in the north gets beaten by LDUs.
One of our first interventions was my involvement with our line minister and saying that these directives do not include the special needs of people with disabilities. We immediately started receiving news of how the directives had a negative impact on people with disabilities. They had no information about what COVID is, how it spreads, who COVID affects. People did not know about the curfew. And so they shoot this boy from the north. So the Local Defense Units beat the girl up north.
The work of Achana and her colleagues paid off.
He joined the task force at its ninth meeting and quickly launched a project to translate information related to the pandemic into sign language. Sign language interpretation was incorporated into all televised speeches on COVID-19.
Although commendable, this advance came somewhat late for some people with disabilities.
Disruption of private and public transportation was essential to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but the decision did not include people with disabilities, and excluded those in dire need of food and health care.
Although people without disabilities can walk easily to buy supplies, out of necessity, many people with disabilities made the difficult decision to go by car or wedding-wedding or taximoto, with great risk for your personal safety.
Muzamil Ali, a teacher with vision difficulties who works in the northeast district of Arua, was harassed by soldiers for allegedly failing to comply with social distancing measures while walking with his personal assistant.
Lydia Abenaitwe, a physically disabled person in the country's capital Kampala, was arrested and detained twice while shopping for food in her car. He told Global Voices:
The first time I was held at a roadblock for about 30 minutes. The second time, I was taken to Kabalagala police station. The District Police Commander expressed his remorse for how I was treated and after about an hour, I was escorted to buy my groceries.
The first time I was held in a one-way block for about 30 minutes. The second time I was taken to the Kabalagala police station. The district police commander expressed his regret at how they treated me and after an hour they accompanied me to buy my food.
The struggles of some people with disabilities occur at the intersection of class, gender, HIV / AIDS and multiple disabilities or other differentials, which increase vulnerabilities.
The ban on the movement of transport exposed some women with disabilities to sexual violence who could not escape their attackers. “Right now, I have about five cases of women with disabilities who were raped by this COVID confinement,” Achana told Global Voices.
People with albinism need unrestricted mobility to access skin protection creams, skin cancer surgery and post-operative care, said Doreen Nawejje, executive director of Women and Children with Albinism in Uganda. Nawejje told Global Voices how confinement complicated medical care for a skin cancer patient in his care:
By the time the lockdown came, we were stopped from using private transport. One time we accessed the District Health Officer (in) Wakiso District to get clearance. But these guys (police) by the roadside confiscated our car key for hours and we missed the surgery because the doctor was on appointment. We had to make another appointment and it had to be at night. And curfew hours start at 7 (p.m.), (so) we had to incur more costs to be residential (at a private clinic) which we had not budgeted for.
By the time confinement came, they wouldn't let us use private transportation. We once contacted the district health officer in the Wakiso district for authorization. But these guys (police) on the roads confiscated our car keys and we lost the surgery because the doctor was treating a patient. We had to take another shift and it had to be at night. The curfew begins at 7 (p.m.), so we had more expenses because it was in a private residential clinic that we had not budgeted for.
Uganda has an extensive legal framework on disability rights. In 2008, the country ratified the United Nations International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Several state obligations came with this ratification. The Government must guarantee personal mobilization with the greatest independence for people with disabilities, accessibility to transportation and inclusion in political decision-making.
Uganda implemented elaborate provisions on disability rights rights in the National Constitution, the Disabled Persons Act, the National Disability Policy regarding non-discrimination, affirmative action and inclusion in political decision-making and national planning guidelines that include disability .
The obvious disparity between well-intentioned laws and policies and their implementation is partially the result of budget constraints.
In the national budget approved for 2020-2021, the social development sector that includes people with disabilities was assigned just 0.38%, while the three priority sectors —work and transportation, security and financing, and debt interest— represent respectively about 13%, 10% and 9% of the entire budget.
This allocation reflects the Government's low level of interest in the social protection of its citizens.
Patrick Pariyo, director of COMBRID-Friends with Disabilities, a community organization in north-west Uganda, told Global Voices that little state funding for disability rights is rooted in business interests, individualism and a culture of reciprocity that pervades all sectors of the world. Ugandan society.
Pariyo explained that the coronavirus measures disrupted her organization's community approach. Before the application of social distancing, educators and community leaders were directly included to assess needs and help people with disabilities to acquire equipment and have assistance.
Now, with social distancing, we were not able to reach people. COVID (-19) has blocked resources. We have over 1,500 epileptic patients in 16 health centers to whom we would provide anti-seizure drugs. Everyone is talking about COVID (-19).
Now, with social distancing, we cannot reach people. COVID (-19) has locked resources. We have more than 1,500 epileptic patients in 16 health centers to whom we must provide anticonvulsant drugs. Everyone talks about COVID (-19).
The difficulties COMBRID is going through are inevitable as donor countries begin to shift their funding to fighting COVID-19 at home. The Government received generous donations from individuals and companies, but disability rights organizations continue to fight to ensure that patients can be cared for.
Finally, the State has the main legal responsibility to protect and promote disability rights.
Ali, the teacher with vision problems, said: “If we cannot have representatives who are more active when it comes to people with disabilities, then the same problems will continue to manifest themselves.”
Abenaitwe agrees: “People who don't understand what other people are going through cannot be expected to represent them well.”
Achana says that identifying disability needs and making them known is the key to policy change, adding that police and military officials do not know about the problems of people with disabilities.
Uganda partially lifted the confinement in early June, but stigma and prejudice against people with disabilities continue. The fight for inclusion is linked to greater social protection problems in Uganda, such as unfair working conditions and youth unemployment.