The pandemic pushed persons with disabilities to the margins in North Macedonia

The pandemic pushed persons with disabilities to the margins in North Macedonia

WFD published an analysis looking into the impact of the pandemic on persons with disabilities in North Macedonia, produced by the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights. The analysis was presented to the public in June 2021, in the presence of Minister for Labour and Social Affairs Jagoda Shahpaska and British Deputy Ambassador Dominic Otway.

The research shows that persons with disabilities and persons who are care givers are in marginalized position, additionally worsened by the crisis. The pandemic brought to the surface the weaknesses of the system and the inequal access to public services for these groups. The data was collected though questionnaires for institutions, civil society organisations and a poll with 219 respondents who are persons with disabilities or persons or caregivers.

The analysis shows that the pandemic affected health and social services, finances, work, education and other areas of the lives of respondents. For 76% of the participants in the survey, their expenses rose, particularly for hygiene products and medicine. The purchase of supplements and medicine for protection from the virus that were another added expense. The persons who use therapy purchased from abroad had problems in getting their therapy after the borders were closed. Waiting in lines at health points and pharmacies was an additional health risk. The lack of access to orthopaedic and health services, as well as the inaccessible points for COVID-19 testing. Almost a third of respondents (29,4%) had difficulties at their workplace, such as losing jobs, decreased salaries, absence and decreased responsibilities. The measures cased difficulties in movement and transport. The respondents point out that the state help was useful to them.

Some of the recommendations are that institutions should include persons with disabilities and their organizations when developing policies and measures to manage the pandemic. Financial aid would be also useful, particularly for persons with disabilities who have decreased incomes or are not work-capable, and support in maintaining workplace. The services for rehabilitation, check ups and interventions should be restarted, while the COVID-19 testing points should be accessible. Getting documents for social protection services should be made available online. The respondents re quested support for following online classes, appropriate assistive technology and educational aids.

The analysis was promoted in the presence of institutions and civil society organizations, who agreed that more needs to be done on this issue and persons with disabilities should be considered when developing COVID-19 management measures. The speakers at the public launch of the publication were: Damir Neziri, WFD, Deputy British Ambassador Dominic Otway, Uranija Priovska, Director of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Jagoda Shapaska, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Vesna Bendevska, President of the Commission for Prevention and Protection from Discrimination, Vesna Kostikj Ivanovikj from the Ombudsman Office, Elena Kochoska from Polio Plus and Zhaneta Poposka from the Mission of OSCE to Skopje.

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