Summary of National Webinar
COVID-19 PANDEMIC AND PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES: EFFECTS, CHALLENGES AND RESPONSE
Bangladesh Protibandhi Kallyan Somity (BPKS) was established 1985. BPKS is an organization of and by disabled person for all. BPKS is a leading national disabled peoples’ organization (National DPO), governed democratically by ‘National Council’ and ‘National Executive Council’ boards, all members are representatives with all types of disabilities and women with disabilities (WWDs) involved at 2000 grassroots DPOs. BPKS affirms that the success of persons with disabilities can exert positive influence on the development of the entire society and to realize and accelerate the overall development of nations.
A National Webinar on COVID-19 pandemic and Persons with Disabilities: Effects, challenges and Response was organized and hosted by Bangladesh Protibandhi Kallyan Somity (BPKS).
Bangladesh Protibandhi Kallyan Somity (BPKS) appreciates the collaboration of Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) of Switzerland Government for funding in Covid-19 Affected Persons with Disabilities Rights to Rehabilitation (CAPRR) project. The national webinar is a major activity of the project implemented by BPKS from July 2020 – December 2020.
Covid-19 is now not about health but became a social issue especially for the low-income individuals and individuals living in vulnerable life condition within the developing countries. Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) may have increased risk for exposure, complications, and death because of a number of factors within the context of Covid-19 pandemic. First, they are excessively excluded from many actions and services’ and are at increased risk of pandemic. More than 46% of the world’s population of 60-plus age have disabilities. Besides, children and adults with disabilities may have basic health conditions that increase their chance of serious complications from COVID-19. Thirdly, PWDs are excessively represented among the world’s individuals living in poverty.
Bangladesh has nearly 17% of people with disabilities (PWDs) and 80% percent of whom lives under poverty as World Report on Disability 2011 published by WHO. PWDs face impediments to successful participation in society, with having many intersecting hindrances when disabilities interact with other characteristics, including sex, age, ethnicity, income and place of residence. Besides, lack of accessing information for most PWDs further contributes to their vulnerability to the COVID-19 outbreak, also contributing to their failure in responding to the pandemic and take essential actions. As most of the PWDs are unemployed, poor and live in overpopulated regions with poor living conditions, this increases their exposure to the outbreak and limits their capacity to put measures in place to respond to the outbreak, thus raises the risk of their vulnerability.
Covid-19 Affected Persons with Disabilities Rights to Rehabilitation (CAPRR) project is being implemented by BPKS with funding support of Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) of Switzerland that will be contribute in achieving of aspiration of Covid-19 affected disabled person by policy safeguard of their rights to public service.
The national webinar is one of the core activities of this project which intends is to share the findings of the research that has been conducted under this project as another key activities to describe the effects and challenges of the PWDs for COVID-19 pandemic as well as to bring out the meaningful insights of the key stakeholders on the potential approach, inputs, activities and outputs that could be a part of developing the COVID-19 pandemic response and recovery measures more inclusive towards PWDs.
The objectives of the webinar are to:
1. Rights of PWDs to development and international cooperation;
2. Draw attention on the needs of PWDs for building a Covid-19 inclusive society;
3. Share the findings of the research on the effects of COVID-19 on PWDs in Bangladesh;
4. Identify gaps and challenges in addressing the serious and longer-term needs of PWDs in the context of COVID-19;
5. Explore key actions for States and other stakeholders about ensuring rights based PWDs inclusive COVID-19 responses.
Mr. Abdus Sattar Dulal, Founder & Executive Director, BPKS and UN Disability Rights Champion, started his speech with appreciation of Switzerland government, welcome the chief guest and other distinguished participants to national webinar. He thanked all the guests for joining the webinar and welcome with gesture. He said in his welcome speech that he believes the participation of all the guest and their contribution in the webinar will contribute to change the life of PWDs in the world with the experience along with the research outcome.
Dr. Mohammad Enamur Rahman, MP, Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief was the chief guest of the national webinar. He inaugurated the national webinar. In his speech, he thanked BPKS for organizing a national webinar on such a time demanding issue. He also showed his gratitude to the other guests and participants for joining the webinar. He showed his deepest respect to the father of Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who started the work for Persons with Disabilities in 1972. He also said that our government is very disabled friendly and they are working to uplift the step. He also thanked the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her daughter Mrs. Saima Wajed Hossain, the Chairman of the national stary limited committee, Autism and MBBS for their outstanding contribution to uplift the livelihood of the Disabled person in Bangladesh. He said in this present situation, Bangladesh is one of the top most affected countries in terms of confirmed cases of COVID-19 pandemic in the world and Bangladesh Government took excellent initiative to control the situation. The present government has taken effective steps to provide services to cope with effects of COVID-19 and with past experience, the government strengthen its capacity to treat the Covid-19 affected patient and to aware the people of Bangladesh for maintaining social distance and other safety measures. The PWDs can be in contact with this COPVIS-19 very easily and he request all along with the all ministries and all development supporters to take attention on this issue.
Sharing the Research Findings
One of the key objectives of the seminar was to share the findings of the research that has been conducted by BPKS under the CAPRR project. Miss. Sabiha Ahmed Diba, Research officer, BPKS, shared the research findings in the webinar. The key findings of the research she presented on the webinar are-
- PWDs are mostly affected in their livelihood activities because of COVID-19 pandemic;
- 29% service holders PWDs lost their jobs in COVID-19 pandemic;
- Lack of food for daily consumption and financial incapacity to maintain nutritional food intake are another key triggered effect;
- Only 7% PWDs said that relief had been distributed in their area, where 46% of them couldn’t receive the relief because either the distribution was not PWDs friendly or their names were not enlisted in the distribution list.
- No specific food or cash supports were designed solely for PWDs;
- Most of the PWD respondents are expecting to receive capital supports and relief from governments, NGOs or any other public or private sectors.
Based on the findings some recommendations have also made and presented in the webinar.
Query and Discussion on the research findings
The guests and participants asked some relevant questions about the research for example the livelihood status, type of disabilities and the age group of the PWDs respondents. Besides some important information and comments had been shared in the webinar.
Mr. Thomas Baumgartner, Head of Political, Economic and Cultural Affairs, Embassy of Switzerland in Bangladesh, thanked BPKS and other speakers and guests for inviting Switzerland to attend a very demanding webinar. He also thanked the Hon’ble state minister for providing very interesting overview of the work that the Bangladesh government is to winged for both to ensure equality for PWDs and also to overcome the effects of COVID-19 pandemic.
He also appreciated the effort of Sabiha Ahmed Diba, Researcher, CAPRR, BPKS, for conducting and presenting a very interesting and important research work on Covid-19 and PWDs. He said in his speech that in that particular day known as International Day for the Elimination, he felt very sadden hearing about the gender-based violence is also a very significant effects of COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladesh. He added that this problem is not only confined with the PWDs or in Bangladesh, rather it is a problem of all women over the world. He also shared that Switzerland also face a massive wave of COVID-19 Pandemic and added that like Bangladesh and all other country the persons with disabilities (PWDs) of Switzerland are also the disadvantaged citizens who are suffers the most. When the pandemic hits Bangladesh in March-April, 2010, Switzerland moved immediately to organize the response which facilitating the emergency support that people mostly need for longer term recovery process.
They managed to raise additional fund and 3 programs with existing commitments. They also managed to support the people of the government of Bangladesh by providing over 70 crore (over 80 million US Dollars) taka and working over 20 projects across the country that are mainly prioritize most vulnerable people that include the PWDs and also people from marginalized communities including the people lives in very remote or hard to reach areas of the country for COVID-19 response. He further added that they (Swiss government) were very happy when BPKS approached in this year to propose a joint project on the issue. He expressed that it is a great experience for them to work together with BPKS on this very important issue through the COVID-19 affected Persons with Disabilities Rights to Rehabilitation (CAPRR) Project. Later he highlighted the activities of the CAPRR projects that are being implemented by BPKS.
Mr. Imtiaz Ahmed, Professor of International Relations, University of Dhaka, spoke in his speech about the challenges of PWDs in combating Covid-19 pandemic. He said that, it is very usual fact that everybody is vulnerable when it is about a pandemic and one can say that PWDs are 3 times more vulnerable than others.
One is in universal level and then it comes to the point that they are disempowered too. Second layer of vulnerability is living below the poverty or ultra-poverty level and thirdly for being disabled persons which puts those in very disadvantaged in the country like Bangladesh where some facilities or infrastructures and other settings are not always disabled friendly. He added that for safety, we don’t need ICBMs or the big infrastructure or not the military bases, we only need to follow the 3 things. One we need to wear masks, second is we need to wash our hands regularly and the third one is to maintain physical distancing for about 6 feet. He said that it is the best time for global partnership. As some of the countries made excellent kind of initiatives for example Vietnam, South Korea, Japan and Singapore though their infection rate is high their casualties are very low. He finally highlighted about the possible solutions over the challenges to mitigate. He said that three things are need to be done before the vaccine come
These include how to ensure 100% use of masks, 100% hand washing activity of all and 100% maintenance of the 6 feet physical distancing. He said that E-literacy is need to be established to create the opportunity for PWDs in times of crisis. The technology-based solution for example applications to figure out the accessibility and other service issues of PWDs based on different types of disabilities can help. But here, the main challenge is raised on how to set and make that technologies available, understandable and useable to the PWDs.
Ms. Huma Khan, Human Rights Advisor, UNRC Office, spoke in the webinar as representative of UNRC. She spoke about PWDs inclusive Covid-19 response. She said in her speech that, in terms of the framework that including the international human based laws as gradual realization that is deprivation point for the PWDs is already highlighted. The United Nations (UN) is very firmly committed to leaving no one behind and also the building back better. In terms of these two important facts PWDs are obviously included as the needful and vulnerable. UN is focusing the vulnerable groups and how they could be more sensitive in including PWDs in part of their programming and policy advisors to deploy it. As it is already discussed and highlighted that the women with disabilities (WWDs) and children with disabilities (CWDs) are bearing double burdens and PWDs are the most deprived and marginalized, UN is mindful to their situation as they work towards building back better. The COVID-19 and the socio-economic response plan of UN, the PWDs are prominently included in that.
In last session, Mr. Abdus Sattar Dulal, Founder & Executive Director, BPKS and UN Disability Rights Champion, talked about the Role of OPDs in PWD inclusive Covid-19 response. By highlighting some rights and laws provided by UNCRPD, he spoke about the present scenario of the PWDs in case of crisis situation and response time including COVID-19 pandemic issue. He said that he is very happy to express that with his leadership delegate a meeting was held with Hon’ble Prime Minister on October, 2010. Following the meeting, back in 2013 under the leadership of the hon’ble Prime mister, a right based act was passed in line with the UNCRPD. He also highlighted on the women with disabilities (WWDs) about their difficulties in time of crisis. He also agreed on an issue that has been highlighted by Mr. Imtiaz Ahmed, Professor of International Relations, University of Dhaka that there is a gap in the context of policy implementation and delivery level. He highlighted the fact of need of the partnership of the government along with the organizations of PWDs (OPDs). With this short note he thanked the Chief guest including the Switzerland embassy, participants and other distinguished speakers for attending and participating in the webinar.
Finally, Mr. Mohammad Zakaria, Project Coordinator, BPKS, & Facilitator, National Webinar, by offering vote of thanks to all the distinguished guest and speakers has declared the closing of the webinar.
The National Webinar was held via Zoom online meeting app. Beginning with the sharing of the research findings with the civil society, policy makers, government representative and including other guest participants. The process moved to the second activity about discussions over the effects, and challenges of the PWDs in COVID-19 pandemic situation. Some important information regarding the ongoing policy has been constructed from the in-effect discussion and consultation towards the PWDs inclusive response of COVID-19 pandemic. The continuous efforts of BPKS advocacy team will be considered the recommendations of webinar and research to contribute in eliminating the policy and implementation level gaps.