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84.7% Indians with disability had to borrow food to cope with financial crisis during lockdown: Study

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Marking International Day for Persons with Disabilities, the study revealed that 42.5 per cent, i.e., two out of every five people with disability reported that lockdown had made it difficult for them to access routine medical care

A study by CBM India, IIPH Hyderabad, and Humanity & Inclusion found that 81 per cent Indians with disabilities reported experiencing high levels of stress; 28 per cent reported postponing their scheduled medical appointments because of the lockdown

CBM India, in collaboration with IIPH Hyderabad and Humanity & Inclusion, conducted a study on the impact of COVID-19 on persons with disabilities in India. The study was conducted to understand the level of disruption on the living conditions of persons with disability due to COVID-19 and related restrictions, and to generate evidence to be prepared for future pandemics or emergencies. The study consisted of 60 per cent male and 40 per cent female. The respondents had different impairments with the following stats- 51.6 per cent with physical impairment, 16.1 per cent with visual impairment, 19 per cent with intellectual impairment, and 9.2 per cent with speech and hearing impairment.

The study was conducted across 14 states in India – Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Assam, Meghalaya, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Maharashtra. The cross-sectional survey was repeated for a second time, six weeks after the first interview on a randomly identified 25 per cent sub sample to discern any change in trends over this period.

The study revealed that the pandemic impacted the health/ mental health and rehabilitation, education, livelihood and social participation of persons with disabilities. 42.5 per cent, i.e., two out of every five people with disability reported that lockdown had made it difficult for them to access routine medical care. Among those with a pre-existing medical condition (12.7 per cent), 58 per cent stated facing difficulty in accessing routine medical care. Therefore, persons with disabilities and pre-existing medical problems suffered significantly more.

Isolation, abandonment, and violence were other worrying psycho-social problems reported, showing the lack of empathy during the difficult times. 81.6 per cent reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress. Among the 34.5 per cent who stated that they needed information on mental health issues, only 25.9 per cent had access to such services.  Only 20 per cent were able to get regular mental health counselling or therapy related services during the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown, and 11.4 per cent faced problems getting their regular psychiatric medicines. 58.2 per cent were unhappy that the therapy sessions for their child with disability has ceased during the lockdown. 84.2 per cent stated that their daily lives had been impacted. The lack of mobility both in rural and urban areas led to distress.

Prof GVS Murthy, Director, IIPH Hyderabad, adds, “People with disability suffered significantly more than the rest of the population in accessing health and rehabilitation care during the COVID lockdown. We need to be adequately prepared so that we do not comprise the health needs of people with disabilities as the country has committed itself to the goal of Universal Health Care as part of SDGs.”

Dr. Sara Varughese, Managing Trustee, CBM India, adds “Lockdown had a negative psychological impact on these differently-abled and one of the most common reason stated was economic difficulties. Many faced difficulties in even accessing basic necessities. Incomes were compromised and even withdrawing their money from their bank accounts was a challenge. Another major concern that was raised was the needs of Persons with disability was not taken into consideration while developing the guidelines on COVID-19 response.”

Raju Palanchoke, Acting Regional Director at Humanity & Inclusion said “In times of crisis like COVID-19, we should not forget that persons with disabilities are diverse and have unique needs based on their disability and circumstances. We must recognize the differences and support them to take appropriate steps. Together, we can work towards and encouraging an enabling environment where persons with disabilities actively participate, lead and enjoy their rights”.

Highlights of the study

Ø  The lockdown posed a major difficulty in accessing medicines due to travel restrictions in their region-

o   42.5 per cent, i.e., two out of every five people with disability reported that lockdown had made it difficult for them to access routine medical care

o   Among those with a pre-existing medical condition (12.7 per cent), 58 per cent stated facing difficulty in accessing routine medical care

o   Nearly a quarter reported difficulty in getting their medications while 28 per cent reported postponing their scheduled medical appointments because of the lockdown

Ø  More than half the respondents perceived that continuous lockdown would have a deleterious effect on their health-

o   35 per cent reported the need of out-patient services at hospitals/clinics during lockdown of whom more 55 per cent had difficulty in accessing out-patient services

o   16.6 per cent stated that they needed emergency medical care during the lockdown among whom 45 per cent had difficulty in accessing the services

o   Of the 35.7 per cent needing medicines during the lockdown, nearly half (46 per cent) stated that they faced problems in accessing the same

o   58 per cent of those who needed regular blood pressure monitoring could not get it done during the lockdown

o   A third of those who stated needing regular blood sugar estimations expressed their lack of access to such a service

o   5.2 per cent of respondents with disability stated that they needed a surgical procedure of whom 47.6 per cent could not attend for the same due to the lock-down

o   Among the 17 per cent needing rehabilitation services, 59.4 per cent failed to access the same

Ø  Many faced difficulties in accessing basic necessities-

o   For a third (34.3 per cent) drinking water supplies were affected

o   A third (33.1 per cent) also mentioned that their pensions were affected

o   45.7 per cent of persons with disabilities were forced to borrow money during the lockdown mainly for livelihood

o   84.7 per cent had to borrow or request for support for food to cope with financial crisis

o   18.2 per cent reported that loans were advanced by inclusive cooperative societies

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