Persons with Disabilities: The Forgotten Vulnerable Group in Kenya’s Fight Against Covid-19

by Kupenda

By Lucky Mahenzo, Kenyan Attorney and Kuhenza Volunteer

Persons with disabilities have historically faced the worst forms of discrimination. They have been denied most of their fundamental rights and freedoms. They have been neglected, stigmatized, isolated and excluded from many programs that are put in place in many societies. This trend is also visible in the plans and measures that the government of Kenya has taken in its fight against Covid-19.

Research has shown that person with disabilities are at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19. The World Health Organization and Catalina Devandas, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, have reiterated this fact and stating:

“Persons with disabilities may be at a higher risk of contracting Covid-19 because of different factors including: barriers to implementing basic hygiene measures, such as hand-washing; difficulty in enacting social distancing because of additional support needs or because they are institutionalized; COVID-19 exacerbating existing health conditions, particularly those related to respiratory function, immune system function, heart disease or diabetes; barriers to accessing health care; and the need to touch things to obtain information from the environment.”

The Kenya Ministry of Health, on 16th December 2020, released a press statement indicating that they are expecting the first Covid-19 vaccine consignment by January 2021 and that health workers, police officers, the elderly, teachers, people who come into contact with crowds and those with two or more medical conditions will be the first to receive the vaccine.  The Kenya Ministry of Health’s briefing clearly show that the government of Kenya does not intend to include persons with disabilities among the group of citizens to receive the Covid-19. This is disappointing and frustrating.

The question we are to ask ourselves is, “Is the Kenya government neglecting the obligations it has towards persons with disabilities under national and international law?” the answer to this question is yes.

The Constitution of Kenya 2010, the Persons with Disability Act 2003, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (the UNCRPD – which Kenya ratified) all place an obligation on the government to ensure the realization of the right to life, right to health, the right to equality and non-discrimination for people living with disabilities. Notably the UNCRPD obligates the government to take all possible measures to ensure the protection and safety of persons with disabilities in the national response to situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies.

The government’s failure to include persons with disabilities among the first beneficiaries of the Covid-19 vaccine in Kenya clearly show that the government has discriminated upon persons with disabilities and exposed persons with disabilities to the danger of contracting Covid-19. The Kenya government must revisit its decision and honor the obligations it has towards persons with disabilities by ensuring it adopts a human-rights based approach to disability and includes persons with disabilities among the first persons to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

Unless persons with disabilities are prioritized in the Kenya Ministry of Health’s Covid-19 vaccination plan, persons with disabilities will be the last to receive the vaccine or will never be beneficiaries of the Covid 19 vaccine.

Click here to learn more about Kupenda’s Covid-19 response efforts and how you can help.

Make a donation here to support our work in advocating for the rights of people with disabilities in Kenya, especially in relation to access to the Covid-19 vaccine.

All donations will be doubled through April 1, thanks to a generous matching grant from the Westwood Trustees.

 


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