Losing your income during COVID-19

How Inclusive Futures is providing immediate relief and long-term support for people with disabilities

November 2020
Two men wearing face masks have a discussion outside a shop.

Soon after the first cases of COVID-19 were diagnosed in Bangladesh Urmi, 16, and her family, started to display symptoms of the virus.

“People in the village started thinking that we are COVID-19 positive,” says Urmi’s mother Sahida. “I took a loan of BDT 3,000 (around £27 GBP) to test.

“By the grace of Allah we were tested negative for COVID-19, however rumours spread and no one gave me work, fearing they might catch the disease from me.”

The family relies on the money Sahida makes by carrying out tasks in the homes of families in their village, combined with income from rearing chickens and ducks.

People with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19

Our COVID-19 response
A girl holds a jug and poses for a photograph.

Worldwide, many people with disabilities have lost part or all their income as a result of restrictions imposed to control COVID-19. People with disabilities are more likely to work informally or be self-employed, so are more at risk of losing their income and less likely to be supported by labour protections. An assessment of the impact of the pandemic on people with disabilities in Nepal found that nearly half of people with disabilities who were surveyed (49 per cent) had lost all of their income.

Urmi, who has an intellectual disability and limited speech, has been supported by an Inclusive Futures project that has supplied her family with a hygiene kit and a monthly a cash transfer of BDT 3,000 (around £27 GBP).

“Staff informed me that my daughter can get emergency cash support,” says Sahida. “Representatives advised us how to maintain cleanliness. We are also provided with a phone number we can call in case of harassment and oppression.”

“Now my children wash their hands regularly,” she continues. “Urmi often forgets, but I supervise her. I do not have money for treatment if they get infected with the virus, so I am emphasising prevention.”

Urmi has also enrolled on Inclusive Futures-funded vocational training for young people and is learning tailoring. She works in a shop five days a week, where she is trained by the owner and master craftsperson alongside another teenage girl.

“I am very happy to see Urmi operating sewing machines,” says Sahida. “I have also started learning so that I can help her as well. I cannot afford a sewing machine for her but I saved BDT 3,000 (from the first two months of cash payments) to buy a sewing machine. The rest of the money I will arrange from upcoming months’ aid.”

An assessment of the impact of COVID-19 on people with disabilities in Nepal also found:

27% of people could not access assistive devices and medical services

98% of people were unaware of any work by local governments to protect people with disabilities

When asked about relief packages nearly a third (32 per cent) did not know support was available while 46 per cent were aware of support, but did not have information about how to access it.

Three people in Bangladesh use hand sanitiser.

How we’re supporting people with disabilities during COVID-19

Three people in Bangladesh use hand sanitiser.

• Immediate relief has been given to 3,256 people with disabilities in crisis, including cash transfers, hygiene kits and food parcels.
• We are prioritising reaching those people who are particularly marginalised. We have supported 749 people with disabilities, including people who are deafblind, or who have intellectual disabilities or multiple disabilities.
• 2,700 people now have access to new water and sanitation facilities in Bangladesh.
• 13 helplines have been set up in Nepal to provide psychosocial support and information about COVID-19 to people with disabilities.
• Close collaboration between OPDs, INGOs and government is encouraging a disability-inclusive response to the pandemic as well as an inclusive recovery. It has also prompted disability inclusion work in wider government policies and plans.
• Communication about disability inclusion and information about COVID-19 has been provided in accessible formats in five countries. For example, in Nigeria social media videos about how to prevent catching COVID-19 used sign language.
• TV and radio programmes and public service announcements about COVID-19 have reached more than 15 million people in Nigeria. Shows include interviews with people with disabilities and discuss the impact of the pandemic and disability-related stigma and discrimination.

Inclusive Futures projects are also providing micro-entrepreneurs in Kenya with both immediate relief and longer-term support to increase the resilience of their businesses.

John, 39, who is deafblind, and his mother Penina were supported to diversify their poultry business when hotels (their main source of trade) closed to comply with COVID-19 restrictions.

An Inclusive Futures project introduced John and Penina to a business mentor, who found demand for chickens 100km away at a market in neighbouring Uganda. Despite the additional transportation costs, this solution provided the family with much-needed income to pay for household necessities during the pandemic.

Hotels have now reopened as lockdown restrictions ease and John’s best customers are once again buying his poultry. But he continues to supply chickens to the Ugandan market and has also diversified to sell eggs and further protect his family’s income in the future.

Through our work in Kenya we have given 144 micro-entrepreneurs, like John, support to adapt their businesses to be more resilient. We have also provided them with information about COVID-19 and personal protective equipment.

“We have worked to ensure their business can continue to grow,” says an Inclusive Futures project spokesperson, “despite the numerous challenges brought on by an unstable market due to lockdown. Together with the business mentors we continue to support John and his mother so they can be financially empowered.”

A man stands in a doorway. A woman who is holding a chicken looks at him.
John and his mother Penina.