42.5% of Indians with disability reported difficulties in accessing routine medical care during the lockdown

NewDelhi: The Indian Institute of Public Health, Hyderabad, a constituent unit of the Public Health Foundation of India in collaboration with CBM India, organisation in disability-inclusive development and Humanity & Inclusion has conducted a study on the impact of Covid-19 on persona with disabilities in India. The study had a sample size of 403, of which 60% were male and 40% female. The respondents had different impairments with the following stats- 51.6% with physical impairment, 16.1% with visual impairment, 19% with intellectual impairment, and 9.2% with speech and hearing impairment.

The study was conducted across 14 states in India- Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Assam, Meghalaya, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, and Maharashtra.

Prof GVS Murthy, Director, IIPH Hyderabad, lead author of the study said, “People with disability suffered significantly more than the rest of the population in accessing health and rehabilitation care during the COVID lockdown. We need to be adequately prepared so that we do not comprise the health needs of people with disabilities as the country has committed itself to the goal of Universal Health Care as part of SDGs.”

Dr. Sara Varughese, Managing Trustee, CBM India, adds “Lockdown had a negative psychological impact on these differently-abled and one of the most common reason stated was economic difficulties. Many faced difficulties in even accessing basic necessities. Incomes were compromised and even withdrawing their money from their bank accounts was a challenge. Another major concern that was raised was the needs of Persons with disability was not taken into consideration while developing the guidelines on Covid-19 response.”

Mr. Raju Palanchoke, Acting Regional Director at Humanity & Inclusion said “In times of crisis like COVID-19, we should not forget that persons with disabilities are diverse and have unique needs based on their disability and circumstances. We must recognize the differences and support them to take appropriate steps. Together, we can work towards and encouraging an enabling environment where persons with disabilities actively participate, lead and enjoy their rights”.

Highlights of the Study:

Ø The lockdown posed a major difficulty in accessing medicines due to travel restrictions in their region-

o   42.5%, i.e., two out of every five people with disability reported that lockdown had made it difficult for them to access routine medical care

o   Among those with a pre-existing medical condition (12.7%), 58% stated facing difficulty in accessing routine medical care

o   Nearly a quarter reported difficulty in getting their medications while 28% reported postponing their scheduled medical appointments because of the lockdown

Ø More than half the respondents perceived that continuous lockdown would have a deleterious effect on their health-

o   35% reported the need of out-patient services at hospitals/clinics during lockdown of whom more 55% had difficulty in accessing out-patient services

o   16.6% stated that they needed emergency medical care during the lockdown among whom 45% had difficulty in accessing the services

o   Of the 35.7% needing medicines during the lockdown, nearly half (46%) stated that they faced problems in accessing the same

o   58% of those who needed regular blood pressure monitoring could not get it done during the lockdown

o   A third of those who stated needing regular blood sugar estimations expressed their lack of access to such a service

o   5.2% of respondents with disability stated that they needed a surgical procedure of whom 47.6% could not attend for the same due to the lock-down

o   Among the 17% needing rehabilitation services, 59.4% failed to access the same

Ø Many faced difficulties in accessing basic necessities-

o   For a third (34.3%) drinking water supplies were affected

o   A third (33.1%) also mentioned that their pensions were affected

o   45.7% of persons with disabilities were forced to borrow money during the lockdown mainly for livelihood

o   84.7% had to borrow or request for support for food to cope with financial crisis

o   18.2% reported that loans were advanced by inclusive cooperative societies

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