Their struggle is double | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 04, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:01 AM, April 04, 2020

Their struggle is double

Persons with disabilities find it hard to avail relief, draw authorities’ attention for special arrangements

The life of visually-impaired Nizamul was already quite difficult, as his meagre income from his roadside insecticide shop in the city's Bhasantek could barely provide for his wife and three children.

But then, the country was hit by the novel coronavirus, that has forced authorities to enforce a countrywide shutdown, blocking the source of income for many like him.

While relief distribution schemes are in place to ease their sufferings, it is often hard for people with disabilities like Nizamul to elbow others in a crowd of desperate people to reach the aid during .

"I have not received any help yet. I have no savings… I don't know how I will survive with my family in the days ahead," the forty-year-old man told The Daily Star.

A number of disabled and disadvantaged persons told this newspaper they want the authorities to have special attention to them, as they cannot move freely amid the shutdown and race with others who are also struggling to make ends meet.

Nizamul says he knows the risks of going out, and has the fear of being infected by Covid-19 virus. Yet, a couple of days ago he went to the streets to beg from, as he had no other option to feed his children. 

"There were only a few people on the street that day… Suddenly a member of a law enforcing agency appeared and urged me to go back home… I returned with empty hands," he said. 

Another disabled person, Tuhin Mia, who is the general secretary of Disable Development Society, said his organisation has 155 members . "All of them are poor, and as far as I know none of them received any aid."

He, however said that he heard some people with disabilities, who are homeless, received some aid.

"As my office is located in Mirpur, I met the local councillor four to five days ago for aid, but he said there is no special arrangement for persons with disabilities…Then I called the mayor, who asked me to give a list to his personal secretary," he said, adding the PS asked him to hand over the list by Sunday.

Physically challenged Billal Hossain from Bogura said people with physical disabilities are highly vulnerable during natural disasters or national crises. The risk to this group is greater due to the effect of their impairments.  

"Many of the group cannot seek alms…I think we have to take special care of those," he added.

Nazma Ara Begum Popy, general secretary of Women Impelling with Disabilities for Empowerment, said, "Persons with disabilities, in some areas across the country where they have good connection with the administration, are getting relief during the crisis. We have also heard allegations that some they are being deprived in some areas."

"The government should give special focus on us. Local administration can easily get the list of persons with disability form the Department of Social Services, and give aid to the impoverished ones," Popy, who is visually impaired, added.

Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Sayeed Khokon said apart from directly providing aid to poor people, they have introduced an on-call service where persons with disabilities can call for aid.

"We will supply food and necessities to their houses," he said yesterday, adding the on-call service will start within a day or two.

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