Children with disabilities are at higher risk of contracting COVID19 due to barriers to accessing preventive information and hygiene, reliance on physical contact with the environment or support persons, and respiratory and immune system challenges related to several disabilities.
Furthermore, implementing quarantines or similar restrictive programs entails disruptions in services vital for many children with disabilities and often undermines their basic rights to food, education, health care, wash and sanitation, and community inclusion.
These conditions can lead to further abandonment and isolation of children with disabilities and put them at higher risk for morbidity and mortality.
These conditions are not hypothetical. Even in the best conditions, when Kenya’s schools close for term breaks and children are sent home to be cared for by their families (most of whom live in rural and poor communities), many experience illness, malnutrition, abuse and isolation. Often this is caused by negative attitudes towards the child with a disability. But even families who value their children often lack the income to purchase enough food and medicine for them and don’t have the skills to maintain their child’s optimal health, or their own.
Each year, Kupenda addresses these challenges by facilitating trainings on disability care and income-generating skills for hundreds of parents and leaders who then become advocates for the children with disabilities in their communities. But today, with Kenya’s schools closed and gatherings prohibited, such trainings are no longer an option.
More than 1,500 children with disabilities have been sent home from the 25 schools we support in Kilifi County. As a result, many are now living in rural, impoverished communities and being cared for by families who do not have enough knowledge or income to provide for their needs.