As they do with other vulnerable groups, the government should also take into consideration the needs of people with psychosocial disabilities, according to Mulima Kasote, President, Mental Health Users Network of Zambia (MHUNZA).
In addition, Kasote claims that the arrival of COVID-19 has resulted in a variety of financial difficulties. In an interview, Kasote stated that he had not witnessed anyone handing out masks to those who suffered from psychosocial problems.
“There was a lot of care that had to be given to individuals with mental disabilities due to the obvious vulnerability of the majority of our colleagues. To begin, we are vulnerable because a person who needs to go out there, possibly to get medication and all of those other things, would not be in one location if they could not do so. This leaves us open to danger.
However when you look at the specialized care delivered to them in comparison to other vulnerable populations, just the other day, I witnessed some handout being given to folks with albinism, but we’re left out of it altogether. Even when we discuss these things, it seems as though it is simply another one of those things to us. Therefore, that is already a hurdle in itself,” he stated.
“You would agree with me that the circumstances do not often enable somebody to stay in one area. So, as they go out there, what safety measures are being taken for such a fragile group of people? I have not come across any instance in which an organisation decides to take matters into their own hands and declare, “We are going to provide masks to people who have psychosocial difficulties,” and I do not know of any such instance having taken place.
You know where they can just be brought together, and of course, when we talk about people with psychosocial difficulties, we are not just speaking of people who are wandering the streets. There are folks who are in their houses, and all of the other factors, including the obstacles, are the same. Therefore, this is the message that we wish to convey to those in positions of authority, as well as to those who have the compassion necessary to look after individuals such as myself and the other members of my team.
And Kasote mentioned that the arrival of COVID-19 brought about some financial difficulties.
“Not particularly, because we had been giving them time to cool,” she said. I believe that the minister has been faced with a great deal of difficulty, and the one and only occasion that we attempted to engage her in conversation was regarding the matter of the law, because this has been a problem.
We have a law on the books, but as far as its execution is concerned, there is nothing that is actually taking place on the ground. There are plans in place, and I believe it was about two weeks ago when we met with those who will eventually become our partners. We reached out to someone from the Ministry of Health, but they were unable to make it.
However, there is a new ministry that deals with matters pertaining to small businesses, and they joined us along with a few other partners. According to Kasote, “as a result, we have always maintained open communication with our partners in an effort to determine the most productive manner for us to collaborate.”
“It’s a battle, because there is always something which is being done,” she said. In addition, I will hasten to point out that ever since COVID-19 arrived, I believe that we have been confronted with significant obstacles, even with regards to our financial situation. Therefore, this has been a point of contention.
At this time, we only have individuals who are volunteering their time because of the compassion that they feel for people who have psychosocial impairments; however, that does not mean that we are idly waiting around; on the contrary, we are trying to write proposals and ensure that we are getting back on track.