The Covid-19 epidemic has not spared the people of Madagascar. The country has gone into lockdown several times since March 2020, when the government declared a national health emergency. Humanity & Inclusion (HI) has adapted many of its projects, putting people with disabilities at the forefront in order to reduce their vulnerability to the virus.
An appropriate response to an unprecedented situation
"Faced with this unprecedented and urgent situation, HI has been extremely proactive in adapting most of its activities to the people who are vulnerable to the virus. Since it is important to help people with disabilities and all of the beneficiaries of its projects get through this unprecedented health, social and economic crisis, our teams have revised each of their projects and the way activities interact with each other in order to get as close as possible to the people we assist,"
explains Emilie Sauvanet, HI's programme director in Madagascar.
One of these projects, MITEHAFA, aims to provide information directly to 1,084 families of people with disabilities in the Atsinanana and Analanjirofo regions.
Protecting people from the virus and addressing the problems it causes
Offrancia, 38, who has had epilepsy since the age of 10, is one of our beneficiaries. She comes from an extremely poor family. Unable to access medical treatment, she used to suffer frequent epileptic seizures and her cognitive abilities had begun to decline.
Since 2019, thanks to personalised social support from HI, she has received medical care, financial assistance to secure the future of her medical treatment, and psychosocial support. When the Covid-19 pandemic plunged Offrancia's family into a new and serious economic crisis, HI provided them with hygiene and protection kits and raised their awareness through a support mechanism set up by the MITEHAFA project. Her family has used this equipment to help protect them from the virus. Like 335 other families, Offrancia's family also received two cash transfers of 100,000 Ariary, the local currency, to help make ends meet.
"Part of the money was very useful to buy food, and medicine for my treatment, and I diversified my stock of merchandise with the rest,"
explains Offrancia, who has now reopened her small business that had been badly hit by the crisis.
Inclusive awareness-raising at home
HI has been working with disabled people’s organisations (DPOs) to encourage people to protect themselves during the pandemic. After broadcasting messages in targeted areas using cars with public address systems, DPOs made visits to individual homes to raise people’s awareness of personal protection measures and health practices. The aim of this was to reduce the transmission of Covid-19 and ensure the continuity of services provided in Basic Health Centers, such as medical consultations, vaccination, and family planning. HI trained 33 awareness-raisers from these organisations as part of the initiative. They have made home visits to more than 1,000 vulnerable families.
Onisoa, a sign language interpreter and trainer at an inclusive school in Atsinanana, and Norbertin, a visually impaired father of two, worked as a team to raise the awareness of the most vulnerable people and thus reach out to people with disabilities.
Norbertine, who is visually impaired, urges his fellow citizens to take COVID-19 seriously
“Although I am visually impaired, I am healthy and I want to help my fellow citizens by ensuring they take Covid-19 seriously,"
says Norbertin, who is working to raise awareness of Covid-19 for people with disabilities. The messages are the same as the ones conveyed in the media, but our awareness-raisers are more readily available to get the message across in an inclusive manner.
According to Onisoa, this is the best way to raise the awareness of people with disabilities
“Awareness-raising is a particularly effective way to reach the most vulnerable families, including the families of people with disabilities,"
"This method allows us to talk with their relatives or guardians, to understand their living conditions, and to provide them with advice on personal protective measures. Some visits take longer, especially for people with sensory disabilities. But we're convinced we're on the right track."
Both Norbertine and Onisoa noticed that people with disabilities, who have a deep understanding of prevention issues, are getting actively involved in these initiatives. Visually and hearing-impaired members of the organisations who implement these awareness-raising actions have made a significant contribution to these extremely positive actions. Once again this proves that disability is not an obstacle to life in society, development, or community well-being.
 Funded by the European Union and implemented as a consortium by Humanity & Inclusion, Douleurs Sans Frontières and SOS Villages d’Enfants