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Few choices for Somalia’s disabled amid corona virus fears

Thursday April 9, 2020

Ali Abdi Iman, a disabled father of seven, who begs for a living in Galkayo/Jabril Osman/Ergo

(ERGO) – Ali Abdi Iman, a severely disabled 60-year-old father of seven children, does not have the luxury of heeding the advice to stay at home to avoid the spread of Corona virus.

Every day, Ali goes out on the streets of Galkayo, where he has lived for 20 years, to beg in order to survive and keep his family fed.

“My main worry now is how to protect myself from Covid-19,” Ali told Radio Ergo. “I use my hands and lower body to move around the market. I am well aware of the need to keep my hands clean, but that’s not possible for me.”

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Life as a disabled beggar presents few choices. Ali relies on the small notes that people give him. He accepts the money, knowing that the public are advised to avoid such hand-to-hand transactions. But what else can he do?

Ali makes around $1 or $2 a day from businesses and passersby on the street. It is barely enough to cover his family’s needs, but he has been surviving like that for many years. Now he must deal with the added fear of the pandemic. “Only God can protect us from this thing; it is not something we can see or monitor,” he says.

Dr Abdikarin Abshir Isse, health coordinator at Galkayo’s office of Galmudug Ministry of Health, said he is aware of the concerns of people with special needs and disabilities, but due to lack of resources the authority can only focus on raising people’s awareness in general.

“We all have to do all that we can to protect ourselves,” he said.

He advised people like Ali to stay at home or use gloves to protect themselves when they manoeuvre through the streets, and to wash their hands as often as possible.

Abdirizak Ahmed Gutale, a 24-year-old disabled student, told Radio Ergo that he suspended his education due to fear of Covid-19. He was taking courses in English, maths and mobile repair courses at a vocational training centre but he quit even though the school is still open.

“I have to crawl on the ground where people spit and I fear I may get infected just by moving around. If you don’t have legs, you’re better off staying at home and forgetting about education or whatever ambitions you may have had,” said a downcast Abdirizak.

The Covid-19 scare has also forced him to stop a part-time job at a mobile repair shop, as he is unable to get there now that public transport has become less frequent due to lower demand.


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