Kathmandu: Nepal has never been a particularly welcoming location for disabled people. To begin with, the country’s infrastructure is grossly inadequate for people with disabilities, making it difficult for them to get around and carry out day-to-day tasks. Discrimination, bigotry, and insensitive remarks are all directed at them.
The pandemic has only compounded the issues that our country’s most marginalized people are facing. According to a WHO assessment, this population group is one of the most severely affected due to a lack of appropriate infrastructure at home, in hospitals, and in detention centers.
CBR National Network Nepal, a chapter of the CBR Global Network that works to enhance the lives of people with disabilities in Nepal, hosted a virtual panel discussion series on the condition of persons with disabilities during the epidemic on Sunday, July 6. The first of three parts of the Gyanmala series focused on ‘Inclusion, possibilities, and problems for persons with disabilities during the Covid epidemic and other outbreaks.’
Nanda Raj Bhatta, director of Rehab Foundation, kicked off the conversation by outlining the issues that people with disabilities experience as a result of the Covid-10 pandemic. He emphasized the difficulties that people with disabilities confront in places like isolation, quarantine, and holding centers. During the epidemic, he particularly emphasized the heightened susceptibility of women with disabilities to violence and sexual abuse.
Bhatta pointed out that the Nepalese federal government lacks a database that tracks the number of disabled individuals in the country.
“People with disabilities don’t have access to information on hospital services and relief items since there isn’t an integrated information center,” Bhatta said. “As well as the day-to-day necessities that persons with disabilities require, such as brailes and wheelchairs.”
The three-hour conversation focused on what should be done rather than what the stakeholders engaged had accomplished in terms of meeting the needs of people with disabilities during health emergencies and disasters.
As Reena Chaudhary of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority (NDRRMA) pointed out at the occasion, there have been some legal revisions in response to the group’s demands. Chaudhary, who is disabled herself, spoke about how Nepalese legislation has “ensured that people with disabilities are appropriately included in disaster risk management plans.”
“The Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act mandates that the Authority develop and implement a special strategy and program for disaster-affected people with disabilities,” she explained.
However, Anil Pokharel, the Chief Executive of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority, admitted that the NDRRMA does not have the resources to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities as required by law. Identifying vulnerable groups, according to Pokharel, is critical for social protection and support, especially during disasters.
He said the Authority was working on rules that will focus on people with disabilities and their unique requirements during catastrophes and health emergencies.
The National Federation of the Disabled-Nepal (NFDN) General Secretary, Raju Basnet, bemoaned the fact that the Federation’s efforts to protect disabled people’s rights are centralized, focusing just on Kathmandu.
He stated that the Federation was in discussions with the government about providing relief items to people with disabilities who were in need. However, he acknowledged that the Federation’s role in such endeavors was restricted to that of a coordinator, and that progress was slow.
The three-hour conversation focused on what should be done rather than what the stakeholders had accomplished in meeting the needs of people with disabilities during health emergencies and disasters.
Observers’ questions about possible remedies were met with vague references to legislation and policy rather than clear plans available from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Authority and the National Federation of the Disabled-Nepal.
In times of crisis, such as the Covid-19 outbreak, when people with disabilities face many problems in terms of treatment, transportation, education, and money generation, stakeholders in the debate appeared complacent, if not completely negligent.
“What are the solutions that the NDRRMA and the Federation anticipate to implement policies for the sole needs of individuals with disabilities at the local level?” one observer asks at one point during the conversation.
The panelists reacted with a slew of ideas but no specific solutions.