The Covid-19 pandemic is an unprecedented challenge, that presents important questions as to how we respond to the immediate crisis and how it will impact the beneficiaries of our work in the medium and long term.
While the official number of cases across Africa remains low, the expectation is that countries will not be immune from the global spread of the virus, and it is becoming increasingly clear that people with disabilities are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, being unable to access to vital healthcare and with an increased financial pressure within families.
We work to support some of the most disadvantaged children in the world. Applying a social model of disability, we work to break down the barriers that prevent the inclusion of children and young people with disabilities in Africa across all areas of society. In doing so, we support the empowerment of local organisations and civil society to drive change in the countries where we work.
We are not a humanitarian organisation nor are we a health organisation. We do not provide emergency support and do not believe it is appropriate to pivot our activities to tackle the immediate health crisis in the countries where we work.
Where we can, we will alter activities to provide short-term support for those in need that are affected by the crisis, but we do not intend to divert funds to specifically address the health-related issues of Covid-19. Our commitment will remain on ensuring social protection structures are in place to protect children and young people with disabilities, and on building local organisations to support their full inclusion across society.
However, the long term impact of Covid-19 will pose a specific and significant threat to the work we do and the beneficiaries we support.
We know from experience it is the most disadvantaged who suffer through any crisis, as funding and support is diverted away from complex inequalities to other more immediate areas of focus. We also know that the likelihood of abuse and violence to vulnerable children following a crisis is increased and so our immediate focus is therefore on safeguarding children and young people with disabilities most at risk through this period.
The structures that protect children with disabilities barely exist in the communities we work and we need to ensure that these systems continue to be developed and maintained to protect and support those most in need. Without this, many children with disabilities will be left behind and vulnerable.
Click here for a detailed report on how the effects of COVID-19 on children and young people with disabilities in Africa.
We also know that Covid-19 poses an existential threat to the survival of local organisations and Disabled Persons Organisations (DPOs) who are essential if the rights of children and young people with disabilities are to be realised. Disability movements in the countries where we work are young, and organisations that focus on children with disabilities are few.
It is vital that the local organisations we work with, along with the network of DPOs working with children with disabilities are able to navigate the long-term challenges this crisis presents. We are therefore committed to support our partners through this process, ensuring they are here at the end of this crisis to continue their work, which will be needed more than ever.
We also want to work with our partners to find and advocate for new ways to engage with children with disabilities to ensure they are included in the decisions that are being made during this crisis. This is an area where we are learning, and we will not get everything right. But we intend to reflect on our actions and learn from children and young people with disabilities on how this can be done better.
We know the long-term impact of Covid-19 will erode long-term social structures that will disproportionately impact children and young people with disabilities. Gains that have been made in disability inclusion for children will be lost and so the need for us to continue our work through this period, in partnership with local organisations, is more important than ever.
And we need you all there with us to ensure no child is left behind.
The Able Child Africa Team