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  • COVID-19 and the resultant restrictions in Kampala, Uganda, have made life very difficult for Martha. On 31 March, the Ugandan government announced a nationwide lockdown and issued a set of guidelines that have created serious challenges for mobility that have hit people with disabilities particularly hard.
    AKDN / Lucas Cuervo Moura
Martha’s story: Living with disability in Uganda during COVID-19

Naigino Martha is deaf. She lives with her sister about 30km outside of the Ugandan capital, Kampala. Martha, like many others, works as a casual labourer at a factory on the outskirts of the city. She has not been able to work since lockdown began. 

COVID-19 and the resultant restrictions have made her life very difficult. On 31 March, the Ugandan government announced a nationwide lockdown and curfew to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The government also issued a set of guidelines that have created serious challenges for mobility, access to basic needs and services including food and medication, and participation in income generating activities that have left persons with disabilities (PWDs) who are already vulnerable doubly affected by these restrictions.

While the government has distributed food to many of the most vulnerable families, Martha has not yet received any. Her circumstances mean that Martha and her sister cannot afford or access food, basic healthcare, or protective items like hand sanitiser.

“I will not forget the day NUWODO (National Union of Women with Disabilities of Uganda) sent me the money,” said Naigino Martha. “We did not have anything to eat that day, not even breakfast. I thanked God that the money came in time, and I rushed out to buy sugar so that we could have breakfast – we had been living without breakfast for so long, on just one meal a day.”

The Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), in partnership with NUWODU, has provided cash relief to support the most critical needs of women and girls with disabilities as well as to share life-saving health information.

Martha is luckily among the very few who can afford a mobile phone, allowing her to access information and receive money through a mobile payment system. However, there are still a significant number of women and girls who are yet to be reached, either because they do not have phones, or because they have yet to be identified. NUWODU and AKF are continuing to focus their efforts on locating and providing support to this most vulnerable group.

Since 2018, AKF has been working with women and youth focussed Disabled Persons Organisation’s (DPOs) in Uganda. Particular attention has been paid to those groups that operate as part of a network of organisations as these allow greater reach; especially important when face-to-face communication is restricted.

This text was adapted from a story published on AKF UK website.