Mawunyo, a 28-year-old woman with down syndrome lost her mother about two years ago to a protracted illness. She has since been living with her grandmother after the family of her father neglected her because of her condition.
They currently live in Ada, a rural community in the Greater Accra Region where survival has not been easy, especially in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Her grandmother, a woman in her early 70s, has not been able to work as expected to cater for their needs.
As a person living with a disability, Mawunyo sometimes needs assistance to carry out some physical activities, but this has not always been easy because her grandmother is not always strong to help.
Nonetheless, Mawunyo must survive. During the lockdown, Mawunyo shared some struggles she encountered with respect to Covid-19 and the restrictions imposed in the country as a result of the pandemic.
When President Akufo-Addo introduced a partial lockdown in the Accra-Tema-Kasoa and Kumasi Metropolitan areas, some activities were prohibited.
A ban on mass gatherings, closure of schools, were all initiated to help curtail the spread of the virus. Social distancing was issued as well.
However, some incentives such as the distribution of food, free electricity, and water supply, and instituting a Coronavirus Alleviation Programme (CAP) focused on protecting against job losses, protecting livelihoods, and financially supporting small businesses helped in making life for Mawunyo comfortable.
Typical of persons with Down Syndrome, Mawunyo is very socially active. She thrives on outing, dancing, meeting people, and attending social gatherings of all kinds in order to stay active, however, the lockdown meant she would no longer have an active social life as she always has had.
In light of the government-imposed restrictive order to combat the spread of Covid-19 infections in Ghana, Mawunyo was not able to attend her “special school” in Ada as a result of the mandated closure of schools as well.
She would regularly loiter around the community but this was restrained by her grandmother who would not allow her to do so. Mawunyo recounts that this was a very difficult time for her.
Getting Mawunyo to practice basic hygiene measures, particularly handwashing and rubbing her hands together thoroughly, was a bit of a challenge too.
Mawunyo further said, she was not given a face mask hence could not protect herself although she was required to do so.
She also shared how her meals were cut down from the three square she was provided at school, to two while staying with her grandmother at home.
Indeed, Mawunyo’s experience reflects the broader issues or situations facing persons with disabilities due to Covid-19 actions and responses in Ghana.
Individuals like Mawunyo must be given proper education on Covid-19 in accessible formats, supplied with essential items together with coaching to enable them to practise the protocols put in place in the fight against the spread in Ghana.
There is a need for an inclusive society, prepared to accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities and pay more attention to the welfare of vulnerable groups in times of humanitarian emergencies such as we are currently witnessing with Covid-19 pandemic.