South Africa is currently under a National State of Disaster since the beginning of the first lock down of March 2019, currently on adjusted alert level 1, and dealing with the Omicron variant like other countries. Along with the exceptionally cold winters and a number of other challenges which makes persons with disabilities even more vulnerable to the virus.
Most people cannot afford disposable masks and relies on cloth masks that are washable, with the result that some people wear the same cloth mask for months. The average cloth mask has a lifespan of not more than 2 months. (This is depending on the quality of the fabrics and material used)
This project’s objectives are to arrange for masks to be made, sanitized, and packaged and dispatched from our warehouse across various urban and rural places in South Africa.
The Expected results and impact of the project are:
- Having masks will lower the changes of persons with disabilities to get the Covid – 19 virus;
- It will also on an emotional level show most vulnerable citizens that their lives matter and that they are cared for;
- It will give vulnerable people an opportunity to leave the house without being arrested/fined for not wearing a mask;
- Care givers who are assisting persons with disabilities washing, cleaning pressure sores and dressing will feel and be more protected;
- When people are wearing masks, they can go to clinics, hospitals and vaccination sites;
- Giving each person two masks, will prevent people from using old dirty masks, or no masks at all;
- It will save lives;
- It will save the countries health cost, and
- It will prevent deaths that are leaving children orphaned.
48 women with disabilities have been engaged, who are entrepreneur seamstresses, to make of the masks. Prior to this excellent income stream, the ladies instantly lost all their work and income when lockdown started
“Contribute to the protection of students with disabilities in Ethiopia from COVID-19 through Mask provision”- funded by the Rehabilitation International Africa Fund
In January 2021, Vision Community Based Rehabilitation Association purchased 30000 washable and reusable face masks from local mask production. The makes purchased have premium protection quality with three-layer, first layer Polyester, second layer Polypropylene, inner layer 100% pure cotton that is breathable and comfortable. The masks are Food and Drug Administration approved. Among the 30000 masks, 10 thousand masks were inclusive masks. All the masks have the RI and VCBRA log printed on it.
VCBRA distributed 30000 masks for nearly 14 500 students in five regions of the country. Addis Ababa, Oromia, Amhara, Southern Nations, and Nationalities, and Sidama regions are among the regions that the masks were distributed for students with disabilities. Schools that have more students with disabilities in 22 cities reached the provision of masks. More than 34 schools in 22 cities were covered with the mask provision project.
The masks were distributed directly by going to the schools where quite a high number of students with disabilities were found. Some of the schools are special schools for the deaf and special schools for the blind. We received information about the number of students with disabilities from regional education offices. During the distribution, we found most students with disabilities were not using masks following the shortage of masks and not affordable for poor students with disabilities.
With regards to inclusive masks, no one knows about it, and everyone was surprised to receive the inclusive mask. Sign language teachers and deaf students found the inclusive mask quite important. We delivered the mask through CBR programs operating in various regions for students with disabilities who are not yet returned to school. Six VCBRA CBR team members were fully dedicated to the distribution of the masks.
During mask provision, VCBRA staff also conducted awareness-raising activities about COVID -19 prevention and ways to adhere to health measures to stop the pandemic’s spread. Proper use of mask,handwashing, use of hand sanitizer, and maintaining social distancing was among the topics communicated.