In The Words Of Sylvia Karungi: "...Social distancing has been there for people with disabilities."

Sylvia Karungi is blind and a member of the National Association of Women with Disabilities in Uganda (NAWODU), an Umbrella organization for women with disabilities that receives funding from UN Women under the EU spotlight programme. She is also a community Psychologist.

Date: Monday, May 4, 2020

Sylvia uganda

Sylvia Karungi. Photo: UN Women/Aidah Nanyonjo

Quote I have limited access to information related to COVID-19. Information regarding COVID19 has not been put into braille form. Most information materials on the preventive measures of COVID are printed and published in newspapers.  With my condition, I cannot read posters or newspapers. I only listen to radio and television stations for information. I have not managed to get a deeper feeling of what coronavirus virus is. Those who can see may have seen photographs of sick people or dead bodies and this builds on their understanding about the effects of COVID-19. My understanding is just based on hearsay. 

 If government could put some information on the preventive measures in braille form, it could put us on the same level of understanding COVID-19 with other people. 

Life has been so challenging with social distancing.  To be blind, you must be with somebody to hold your hand as you move.  We also identify people by a sense of touch and hearing.For me to recognize you, I either give you a hug or shake your hands. Today I rely on only voice. I don’t like asking people who they are.  I also do not like someone to greet me from far without hugging me or shaking my hands. It is like discriminating me, yet it is the order of day.             

The COVID-19 pandemic worsened the situation. Social distancing has been there for people with disabilities. In our culture, people don’t want to associate with people with disabilities.  They think talking to somebody like me or marrying me is a curse. 

Government is giving out food, but a number of people with disabilities including myself, have not received it. There is no quick response by the government to distribute food to those in need. We don’t have what to eat. We are starving with our family members. 

Government’s food is being distributed to the poor and vulnerable. Many of the  people with disabilities fall under this category but haven’t received food. Government would have handed over food to organizations that bring together people with disabilities to distribute it to their members. 

We have not been working for more than a month. Even friends who used to support us are not working. Prices of commodities have gone up; a packet of salt costs Sh2000 from Sh800. The dependency level in Africa is high. I must provide for my parents and daughter. With the ban on the public transport system, it is not possible for me to go back to my village where most of the things are free of charge.