Disability groups in TN to frame protocol for groups most vulnerable to coronavirus
Leading disability rights groups and activists in Tamil Nadu are working on a protocol to support groups most vulnerable to the coronavirus outbreak. Part of this involves building a database of volunteers who can supply essential items at the doorstep.
Chennai resident Karthik Chandrasekharan has mobility challenges due to cerebral palsy. He needs assistance to wash his hands and has a helper.
“Taxis are banned and so is other public transport because of coronavirus and my helper cannot come home now”, says Karthik. “I find it hard to wash my hands often without help and depend on my elderly parents. I can see it is not easy on them”. He is worried about what lies ahead.
It is issues like these that disability rights groups in Tamil Nadu are working to address by framing a protocol to support vulnerable groups like the elderly and disabled people.
Silence on Centre & state government’s part
Until now there has been little initiative taken either by the Centre or the Tamil Nadu government in this regard. To address this, Addressing & Including Diversity in Emergency Response (AIDER), an informal group of disability and disaster focussed organisations, has published a detailed brief on this website.
Persons with disabilities and people experiencing medical conditions requiring tertiary care including blood transfusion and other support services are in an extremely vulnerable situation in this period of emergency. The complexity of the situation is due to lack of focus in the provision of accessible information, inaccessible services, lack of assurance of support systems during phases of isolation including for basic supplies. – Disability Rights Alliance of India
The lack of any government assurance, even on the part of disability focal agencies such as the disability commissioner’s office is worrying.
Key demands made
Among the immediate demands made by the groups are to:
- Activate the regional volunteer database created in the aftermath of the Chennai floods for localised help.
- Follow the Kerala model of supplying essentials to the doorstep.
- Develop a tech interface for transfusion-dependent people to register their regular blood needs.
- Organise transport and look at ways to stock up on blood and lifesaving medicines.
- Support services during quarantine.
- Make available accessible testing and hospitalisation.
- Provision of information in accessible format.
One of the biggest concerns relates to the chronic shortage of blood, which affects thalassemia patients in particular. Blood donation camps have been cancelled and reports are that Rotary-TTK Blood Bank, a mainstay for Bengaluru residents, is close to running out of stock.
“Oxygen cylinders and nebulisers are some of the immediate challenges we foresee”, says Iftikhar Zia, Member, Organisation for Rare Diseases, India (ORDI), which is among the groups involved in framing the protocol. “We are looking at solutions where can pool in and buy all the supplies needed and store it at one place and give it for free”.
The state government will also be asked to set up a special cell to advise and act on strategies to be adopted when it comes to existing and new treatments. The larger goal of this effort is that of framing a comprehensive action plan which is enduring in nature to ensure that one of the key Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), “Reach the farthest behind first”, is met with.
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