Botswana: Compliance to COVID-19 Measures Challenge for PWDs, Caregivers

Gaborone — Caregivers and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are part of the global community with unique concerns created by COVID-19.

This includes 38-year-old Ms Intlafatso Kwapa who is worried that her two autistic children cannot abide by simple precautionary measures such as washing hands to avoid the spread of the Coronavirus.

"They have a developmental disorder and they can't entirely isolate themselves. They need close supervision and they need me not to only be with them but also to touch them and assist with day to day tasks," she said.

Ms Kwapa's two children epitomize challenges faced by many other people with disabilities (PWDs) who depend on close contact from their caregivers for their everyday survival.

As social distancing has been accepted globally as part of the preventative measures, this has added woes to caregivers like Ms Kwapa.

The married mother of four explained in an interview that the safety measures of curbing the spread of Coronavirus presented new challenges for her as a caregiver.

Even though PWDs face the same risk factors as the general public they tend to be more vulnerable due to their compromised health state.

Her 14-year-old son has nonverbal autism. Ms Kwapa said she recognised developmental defects on her son when he was three years.

"Communicating and passing instructions to him is now a huge challenge," she said.

She said the family took him to several health professionals and was finally diagnosed by a speech therapist to have autism.

His younger brother is also autistic but with a better understanding of basic concepts such as reading, although he also needs assistance.

Quizzed on what challenges she had as a parent and caregiver, MsKwapa said it was not easy at all. She said, as a result, she left her professional career as a database administrator and volunteered her services to Autism Botswana.

In an interview principal disability officer at the Disability Office Ms Thapelo Moalusi said the envisaged national strategy on disability would address many challenges bedevilling PWDs.

She said the strategy which was at a draft level and awaiting cabinet approval could only come into proper effect with the assistance of other stakeholders.

Ms Moalusi said their office was coordinating service provision to PWDs and everything surrounding governance and policy.

She said in the midst of challenges such as COVID-19 inclusion awareness to PWDs was vital.

"Let them develop plans for themselves. They should take part and be involved in the implementation and reviewing of strategies. Advocacy for human rights is also important because they know their rights," she added.

Ms Moalusi said their only worry was whether information dissemination was sufficient.

She said they had planned to meet caregivers to share notes but were restricted by public gathering measures. She acknowledged that service provision remained a challenge for PWDs.

According to the last national demographic survey of 2017, there are over 90 000 PWDs in Botswana.

Source : BOPA

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