A shabby house, no access to water that is outside, lack of medications and help is an incomplete list of hardships faced by 34-year-old Aigerim (not her real name) during the COVID-19 lockdown. She is an internal migrant, a woman with disability on a wheelchair.
During the outburst of the pandemic, lockdown, emergency regime in some regions of Kyrgyzstan and restricted access to medical services, Aigerim was hardly surviving.
Before the pandemic, the woman came from Batken region to Bishkek, where she attended trainings for people with disabilities, and then started to earn money from home.
But COVID-19 has changed her plans.
She had high temperature and weakness for a few days. She had to face major difficulties as she had problems with the toilet. She could not take water on her own to still her thirst.
The assistant who had earlier helped her from the nearest village in Chui region could not reach Aigerim because of the curfew and ban on entering Bishkek via the quarantine and sanitary station.
The distressful situation of many persons with disabilities was aggravated by the unpreparedness of the social safety net to help this category of vulnerable citizens. They had high fever and did not have access to medical services and medications.
“By the time of lockdown measures, Kyrgyzstan did not have a database to provide assistance to these people during emergency,” said Gulmira Kazakunova, the chair of the Kyrgyzstan association “Union of Persons with Disabilities Ravenstvo”, which has over three hundred members.
Kazakunova named another problem, namely the lack of a database of social services and mechanisms of help during emergencies. Therefore, activists either organized assistance during difficult periods on their own, or turned to special agencies with personal requests.
The experts of the Coalition for Equality in the Kyrgyz Republic reported facts of increased stigma and discrimination against vulnerable groups during the pandemic.
According to “Nazik Kyz”, which is a part of this informal association, many women with disabilities were starving during the lockdown. Most of them did not have time to receive or withdraw their pensions and allowances from bank accounts because of the sudden emergency announced in April 2020. PWDs found it challenging to get to the bank on their own and stand there in line as municipal transport did not operate.
“The critical level of hunger among women with disabilities, restricted access to medical help, no means of subsistence have deprived them of the chance to seek support and help,” the coalition said.
According to the research “Influence of COVID-19 on the situation of women and men in the Kyrgyz Republic. Rapid gender analysis” issued by a range of organizations of Kyrgyzstan (UN Women, etc.) in 2020, 43 per cent of persons with disabilities (PWDs) who have been first declared as such were women.
During the lockdown, women with disabilities had additional burden and challenges related to the restricted access to medical services in the field of reproductive health.
This article is a translation of the story originally published on this website in Russian.
The article was published under the “Raising Awareness of the COVID and Discrimination Challenge to Strengthen Support to Vulnerable Groups in Kyrgyzstan” project of the School of Peacemaking and Media Technology.
This publication was prepared with the financial support of the European Union. School of Peacemaking and Media Technology in CA is responsible for the content of this publication. The article does not reflect the views of the European Union.