March 2022 marked 2 years since the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 a pandemic. In those 2 years over 6 million lives have been lost and inequality has spiralled. We asked members of the Alliance to share their pandemic realities; stories of how inequality has been experienced and is being fought for us to share with the wider movement.

 The aim is to inspire more people to join the fight against inequality. Here are some of the realities our members faced and some are currently facing in the pandemic.

 


My Pandemic Reality - Story 1

“During Covid-19 hard lockdown our organisation couldn't sit down and cry, we stood up and started a community soup kitchen for the community children as the households were struggling. We ran the soup kitchen for six months.

After our taps ran dry, we organised a community borehole so that our people have clean water.

We are proud because we didn't allow our community to struggle and we did all this through passion and love.”

Anonymous from South Africa


My Pandemic Reality - Story 2

"In the 2 years of the pandemic as an organisation, we have faced a lot of discrimination from communities. Some of us have never gotten vaccinated. Food supplies were given to non LGBTQI people only since our country never legalised homosexuality. So many people from the LGBTQI community never got equal rights to access food, jabs, even necessities or equipment to use. Up to now we are denied medical facilities because of what we are. As an organisation we are still in hard times with no help at all.”

Anonymous from Uganda


My Pandemic Reality - Story 3

“The Covid-19 pandemic affected everyone. Women and girls were victims of gender based violence and sexual violence. Girls were exchanging sex for sanitary pads and cases of teenage pregnancy were alarming. This was attributed to poverty, [lack of] housing, poor parenting skills. Children in private schools were learning from home using laptops but the majority in public schools were not able to continue with education. Stock out of measles vaccine, septrin, nevirapine and patients with non-communicable diseases could not access health facilities for fear of contracting Covid-19.” 

Anonymous from Kenya


Soon after India went into lockdown, NCPEDPs [National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People] dedicated Covid-19 helpline was overwhelmed with calls for help. The problems ranged from absence of medical care, lack of food and other essential supplies, utter financial hardship and absence of caregivers.
Here are some of the snippets and narratives that were collected in a grassroots survey carried out on the effect of the pandemic on persons with disabilities. 
My Pandemic Reality - Story 4
“As a deaf person, I have no access to correct and up to date information about Covid-19 in sign language. When using a mask, others find it difficult to understand what I am signing, so I have to remove the mask again and again, which puts me at risk.” said one of the respondents. Soumita Basu (a severe arthritis patient)’s caregiver was unable to reach her. 
“With police lathi-charging people [A coordinated assault with iron-bound bamboo sticks, used by the police as a method of crowd control.] venturing out, there was no way for my helper to reach my house, even if she managed to get a letter of permit made.” Lt Col Ramesh Chandra Sarna, a resident of Meerut who has been bedridden after a stroke last year, was unable to access the services of his medical attendant or physiotherapist since the country went on a lockdown. “I need 24x7 medical attention. But my caregivers were worried that the police would stop them. There is little clarity on how to get a pass for them,” he said. 
In his 40s, Piyush Nigam, a wheelchair user with 80% disability from Lucknow stays alone. It took the intervention of the Department of Persons with Disabilities to get a pass to his caregiver. In another incident, a family abandoned a deaf person at AIIMS-Raipur [All India Institute of Medical Sciences– Raipur] after admitting him as a Covid-19 suspect.
 


My Pandemic Reality - Story 5

Loss of employment

In Meerut, India Shahnawaz, 24, faced the daunting task of finding a new job. He has a disability in his right leg and worked as a carpenter in a factory that was closed down due to the pandemic. “It is hard to find a job with my disability. Now I don’t know when the factory will reopen, and when it does, I don’t know if I will still have a job,” he said. For Jeyaraman M, his disability is posing a threat to his family in an unprecedented manner. He is at the mercy of his neighbours. “We have to beg our neighbours to get groceries and are unable to go to the town. I make a living by writing petitions for USD 0.13- 0.26 in front of the district collectorate. Now, even that is not possible. How can I support my wife (who is also disabled) and two children?". Same is the case with Vakila and her husband, Khalid, who have 40% disability. They lost their jobs after the factory they were employed at shut down. “Our neighbours give us food for our children but how long will they continue to do so?” asked Vakila.
 


My Pandemic Reality - Story 6

Impact on children with disabilities

Rajashree Anand, parent of an adult autistic girl, faced difficulty during the lockdown as her child was disturbed because of the change in routine. “My daughter has experienced bouts of crying/whining, mood-swings, sleeplessness, crankiness, etc. Getting her to do something else at home stresses her out as it is not a part of her routine” she added.  Jeewan Rai, the headmaster of a blind school from Sikkim said, “The junior students below 6th standard who need to be educated with the help of touch, are unfortunately left out as of now.” Another parent who came to Chennai for her daughter Mayuri's treatment, lamented how they are stuck due to the lockdown and Mayuri is unable to go for her physiotherapy and speech therapy, or to her school, which is affecting her physical and mental health. Another parent of an autistic 10-year-old complained how due to social distancing the boy’s friends have stopped coming over to play with him. This had an adverse impact on his mental and emotional health.
India


My Pandemic Reality - Story 7

Peperusha Binti, a Kenyan non profit organisation, aims to end gender-based violence among young women and girls. As an organisation working in the informal settlement areas and the rural communities, the only way that helped us conduct activities and hold events was by mobilising resources from friends and well wishers in the community. And through this we were always able to reach more adolescents and young women in the community.

However, when Covid-19 came, life became hard and we were unable to get well wishers to continue supporting our activities. Then also there were so many rules that came with the pandemic that prevented us from meeting the adolescents and the young women in the community thus we had to put a halt to most of our activities.
During the pandemic there were many cases of teenage pregnancies and gender based violence hence we took the initiative to hold online campaigns on teenage pregnancies and gender based violence. We also went as far as rendering help to those affected by helping in reporting the perpetrators and seeking support for the affected.