The novel corona virus that originated in Wuhan, the capital of China’s Hubei province, and has now spread globally, is impacting every individual’s life around the world. On March 11, 2020, World Health Organization (WHO) declared the novel corona virus as a pandemic. According to data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University, the virus has spread to more than 150 countries and infected over 2, 995,456 people globally. WHO has stressed the need for citizens to take collective action including social distancing, hand-washing and avoiding touching your face. Governments, all around the world, have urged their population to stay at home and self-quarantine themselves, to reduce the spread of the virus. Among the highly at risk citizens are the Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) who require special attention and assistance during the confinement. Mr. Armoogum Parsuramen, Founder-President of GRF always believes in quality and diversity with specific concern to the persons with disabilities. Global Rainbow Foundation (GRF) accompanies PWDs and the most vulnerable community during the quarantine period in Mauritius.
The word which has now become part of our daily lives is “Quarantine.” It is funny how this quarantine, which typically only means a period of 14 days, seems to be never ending. However, Quarantine did not always mean 14 days. If we delve into the etymology of this indebible word, we find some quite interesting facts. Historically, the custom of quarantine started during the 14th century in an attempt to protect coastal towns from plague epidemics. The quarantine convention was derived from the Italian root word ‘quarantagiorni’, which means 40 days, in Italian. Ships arriving from contaminated ports in Venice were forced to sit at anchor for 40 days prior to landing. Cholera outbreaks from passenger ships coming from Europe ushered in a reinterpretation of the law in 1892 to grant greater power to the federal government in enforcing quarantine conditions. Consequently, it was devised to be quite effective in slowing the spread of the disease across the nation.
Reading about the historical events usually does not evoke great emotions in us. However, it might be astounding to know that we are currently living through a historical event. One more devastating event attached to this heavy word — Quarantine. Corona virus ensured that it brings back meaning to this word and it has affected our daily lives on all levels possible from our mode of praying to buying groceries. We would never have thought that we would find ourselves living a small piece of history, trapped in our home as the lockdown measures in Mauritius are being expanded. Being locked at home for weeks, with varying degrees of fear and uncertainty, is definitely new-fangled for most of us. Nevertheless, this is not the case for persons with disabilities who are accustomed to relative isolation and marginalisation. The pandemic is gripping the population with anxiety and in these times, we tend to forget about persons with disabilities (PWDs) who are at greater risks of contracting the virus. While we may go out and enjoy our lives to the fullest after this ghastly episode, they will continue living in their compromised conditions. Having a taste of one aspect of their lives, we can draw on this experience to empathize with them and lend a helping hand, whenever possible. The quarantine, therefore, calls for our humanitarian support and aid.
The world is grappling with an unseen, deadly enemy, trying to sort out how to deal with the threat posed by the virus. As the coronavirus pandemic has stretched around the world with 3.04 million confirmed cases, Covid-19 presents particular risks to many people with disabilities around the world. In March 2020, WHO stated that under normal circumstances, persons with disabilities are among the most vulnerable and stigmatized in the world. The question that is raised is “Who is protecting the people with disabilities and what is being done for them during this hard time?” Evidence suggests that people with disabilities are disproportionately affected by the corona virus pandemic and governments around the world have been called for to adopt emergency steps. Given that governments are scrambling to respond to the global epidemic, it is highly significant than ever to ensure that the measures taken are completely inclusive of people with disabilities and to shun human rights violations. Recently, the UN experts emphasized the need to reassure people with disabilities that their protection is a priority, and encouraged countries to establish clear protocols for emergencies in public health to ensure that access to health care, including life-saving measures, which do not discriminate against people with disabilities when medical resources are scarce.
This covid-19 pandemic has really turned the world upside down. People’s health has become the priority and the Governments around the world are propagating more health awareness. Unlike Dubrovnik’s former quarantine law in Italy, today, people have the option to self-quarantine in the comfort of their homes. A result of isolation and lockdown is to prevent covid-19 victims to prevent the propagation of the virus. Unfortunately, despite all these precautious measures, persons with disabilities (PWDs) are more vulnerable due to their weak immune system. The Global Rainbow Foundation (GRF) has been participating actively for PWDs basic needs and has also been supportive for medical assistance via telemedicine and telehealth setups to accompany the PWDs. WHO has recently shared some specific guidelines to create more awareness around the world and the GRF is continuously sharing the stipulated information, measures and health tips through the GRF Web radio to sensitize the PWDs and the public at large.
The GRF team is besides providing online courses to PWDs to ensure the continuity of the programmes and to cater for the unprecedented social distancing measures announced by the government have changed life beyond recognition. The lockdown definitely has visible impacts on the accessibility and mobility
As Mark Haddon so beautifully puts it – “For me, disability is a way of getting some extremity, some kind of very difficult situation, that throws an interesting light on people.” Without doubt, disabled people are the most vulnerable to this virus. People will have to adapt themselves to the “new normal”. Yet, since it is now part of our life, not only are we called to tolerate it, but to accept it.
Natasha D. Caulleechurn, Yoga Trainer & Art Therapist
Yesvina Soomien, Intern
Sookriti I. Seenarain, Project Officer
Ilina Rughoobur, Intern
Global Rainbow Foundation
28 April 2020