Namibia: Deaf Community Concerned Over COVID-19 Information

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The Namibian National Association of the Deaf (NNAD) is concerned that valuable information about COVID-19 is not made readily available for the hearing impaired, and this violates their right to access of information.

There is no provision made for the deaf community to report possible COVID-19 cases because the telephonic helpline (0800 100 100) is unavailable to them due to their impairment. They are unable to call and let the operator know should they experience COVID-19 symptoms.

Linekela Paul Nanyeni, the national executive director of the NNAD, stated that persons with disabilities, specifically the deaf and visually impaired, are always excluded from vital information. "We have so many programmes and information going out about this pandemic and some pamphlets have been translated into different languages but not in sign language. NBC news, for example, was made aware of the need to ensure to always have a sign language interpreter. The government, on the other hand, is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) but it doesn't always remember to include the deaf," said Nanyeni.

He further questioned the government's strategy to educate the deaf, which he said is currently non-existent. "Is there any specific measure put in place by the government to educate the deaf? Nothing at all. Is there any information available in Braille? Nothing. The Namibia Disability Act, for example, points out that information should be made available in sign language," he said. Nanyeni stated that when the lockdown for Khomas and Erongo regions was imposed, the deaf community was poorly informed and this has contributed to their confusion, as many did not understand why they have to stay at home.

The executive director also attributed lack of information as a contributing factor to why some travelled out of Windhoek and Erongo regions right before the lockdown. "Many people travelled in the eve of the lockdown to go to their families and loved ones in other regions. What a big mistake indeed," he said.

He further stressed that the government should make all valuable information available in sign language to ensure all citizens are properly informed during this pandemic. Nanyeni, however, thanked the President and government for the swift response to confront the threat of COVID-19.

"Let's pray that our government and its leaders lead us out of this pandemic safe and sound. Stay at home and be safe," he added.

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