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..Accuses govt of lack of clear cut policy for group

By Olasunkanmi Akoni

A group, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, CCD, has claimed that 100 per cent of all the People Living With Disabilities, PWDs, head clusters in Lagos indicated that none of them has been engaged or involved in any of the COVID-19 vaccine amid third wave, despite several interventions by the state government.

Executive Director of CCD, David Anyaele, stated this on Thursday, during a public presentation of a Report on Access to COVID-19 vaccine among PWDS in Lagos, held in Ikeja, G.R.A.

Anyaele, explained that the claim was based on research findings by the group in collaboration with Ford Foundation, a Non Governmental Organsisation, NGO.

According to him PWDs in Nigeria are facing a plethora of challenges that often undermine their access to social and health care services, adding that World Health Organization, WHO, 2011, report shows that there are over 25 million PWDS in Nigeria, with approximately 3.6 million of them having very significant difficulties in functioning.

“Instructively, more than 2 million of them are in Lagos. Regrettably, studies from the existing literature articulate how PWDs in Nigeria have continued to witness discrimination, exclusion, denial of priority in public space and subjected to various physical, structural, communication and institutional barriers in accessing health and social services in the country, Anyaele stated.

He continued: “From studies conducted, 100 per cent of all the PWDs head clusters in Lagos indicated that none of them has been engaged or involved in any of the COVID-19 vaccine government engagement/forum. This has further promoted institutional discrimination against PWDs in accessing COVID-19 vaccine in Lagos.

“Institutional factors reported by PWDs during the survey include: Non-inclusive of PWDs community in the COVID-19 programmes and activities; poor dissemination of information, education and communication materials on COVID-19 vaccine across clusters of PWDs; PWD’s care-givers, family members and religious leaders are discouraging them from taking the vaccine and PWDs were struggling with physical, structural and communication barriers at the COVID-19 vaccine centres.

“Systemic factors affecting access to COVID-19 vaccine among PWDs showed: lack of specific policy guidelines prioritising the various needs of PWDs at the vaccination centres, discrimination, poor attitude, and unprofessional practices of health workers at public health institutions, as those continued to affect equal access to vaccine centres, among PWDs.

“Majority of the PWDs cluster heads interviewed reported that they have not noticed any information, education, communication (fliers, posters, billboards, among others) materials from the government, prioritising their cluster needs on access to COVID-vaccine as at the time of the survey.

“Findings revealed that health policy makers failed to make specific provisions for PWDs as there was no specific policy guideline prioritising the issues of critical concerns of PWDs in most of the COVID-19 vaccine centres in Lagos. “For instance, PWDs interviewed reported that there were no sign language interpreters for the hearing impaired clusters. Priority was not given to PWDs with hidden disabilities (Hearing impaired and Albino) on a queue and many vaccine centres are not accessible to PWDs on a wheel chair or those that are using crutches.

“Findings revealed that health policy makers have been excluding the PWDs community in t he COVID-19 stakeholders forum/programmes/activities. “

While enumerating findings on challenges faced by social and health policy makers in ensuring equal access to vaccine centres, Anyaele stated: “The major challenge as pointed out in the study is lack of synergy between Lagos State Office of Disability Affairs, LASODA, and other relevant health stakeholders in charge of COVID-19 vaccine, in particular, Lagos State Primary Health Care Board. “Majority of the health policy makers interviewed pointed out lack of sufficient knowledge about specific provisions in the disability law, PWDs’ rights and issues of critical concerns as a huge challenge.”

Based on the findings, the following recommendations by CCD for implementation by various organs, include: Authority should collaborate with LASODA to build the capacity of managers, administrators and field health workers working on COVID-19 vaccination at various councils on how to respond competently and confidently to the needs of all PWDs’ clusters.

“Primary Healthcare Board, PHCB, in collaboration with LASODA and National Primary Health Care and Development Agency and other relevant stakeholders should develop a policy guideline on access to COVID-19 vaccine information, education, communication and administration for all PWD clusters in Lagos State.

“They should also remove all the physical, communication, structural and attitudinal barriers to access to COVID-19 vaccine among PWDs in Lagos State. 3. PHCB as a matter of urgency should make deliberate efforts to remove communication barriers by employing ad-hoc sign language interpreters at various vaccination centres in Lagos State t o ensure inclusive COVID-19 vaccination for PWDs with hearing impaired. 4.

“PHCB should assess all their inoculation centres to eliminate physical/structural barriers, institutional and attitudinal barriers such as discrimination and unprofessional practices among health workers that can d i s c o u r a g e P W D s f r o m accessing the va ccination centres. In particular, the COVID-19 vaccine centre at the Alausa Secretariat should as a matter of urgency be made accessible to persons with physical disabilities.

PHCB should decentralise the COVID-19 vaccine centres across all councils to enhance proximity and access to the vaccine for PWDs in Lagos.

“The Ministry of Information should collaborate with the Ministry of Health and LASODA to roll out an inclusive information , education and communication pro g r a m m e o n access t o C O V I D – 1 9 v a c c i n e administration targeting all clusters of PWDs in Lagos State.

“LASODA should create an online platform that can easily be reached by PWDs to lodge complaint and register to access proper and inclusive information on COVID-19 vaccine for all PWDs,” among others

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