Face masks were distributed to students with disabilities in Ethiopia earlier this year.
Approved by Zhang Haidi, president of Rehabilitation International, and the executive committee of RI, RI Africa Fund supported a RI member organization – the Vision Community Based Rehabilitation Association (VCBRA) to help protect student with disabilities from COVID-19.
Like in any other countries, in Ethiopia, schools were closed due to COVID-19, and all schools reopened in October 2020. Most of students with disabilities were unable to afford to buy their own masks. And their knowledge of the inclusive type was very limited. This project conducted by VCBRA aimed to reduce the vulnerability of students with disabilities and protect them from contracting the virus as they return to school.
With the funding, VCBRA distributed 30,000 washable and reusable 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 where 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. VCBRA delivered the mask through CBR programs operating in various regions for students with disabilities who are not yet returned to school. Sign language teachers and deaf students found the inclusive mask quite important.
VCBRA has also organized some activities to help raise the students and teachers’ awareness of COVID-19 prevention and control, encouraging them to use face masks properly, wash their hands correctly and try to maintain social distancing.
Research shows people with disabilities are more vulnerable to the virus, and they are among high-risk groups. They lack of not only essential medical supplies, but also basic knowledge on epidemic prevention and control. The situation is even worse in the developing and least developed countries.