Leaving No One Behind: Engaging the Deaf Community on the COVID-19 Response

by Amref Health Africa

Under normal, day-to-day circumstances, the deaf or people with hearing challenges face numerous challenges in social interaction and inclusion while seeking health services. Imagine what it must be like to do the same amidst a fast-evolving global pandemic. Protective measures such as wearing of facemasks and working from home further increase the challenges this group faces in communicating, seeing as many of them rely on facial expressions and lip reading to communicate.

A lot of information on COVID-19 is shared on television and radio, including Kenya’s daily briefings on the pandemic. Deaf people and those with hearing difficulties face a challenge in accessing such information promptly as many of them to do not own television sets, and this creates a feeling of ’being left out.’

Amref Health Africa in Kenya is deeply engaged in the national COVID-19 taskforce, where we support the coordination and management of actions at the national and county levels. By supporting community engagement, Amref is working to ensure that various population groups, including people living with disabilities, are fully engaged and their emerging needs addressed.

With support from the European Union (EU) in Kenya through the EU-funded COVID-19 Response Programme, Amref supported Nyeri County to sensitise 15 people with hearing disabilities to acquire more information on the disease and discuss ways for their meaningful engagement in the response as well as provide peer to peer sensitisation.

Charles Gichuhi and Josephine Aska were among the participants in this forum. They indicated that they were aware of the disease and its symptoms through social media platforms such as Facebook and other social groups where they share information. They shared insights that the training helped them understand how to protect themselves from contracting COVID-19, as well as gaining knowledge on asymptomatic cases where an infected person does not show any signs of illness, things they were not aware of before the training.

This community has also been affected largely by COVID-19 as most of them are in small businesses which were closed due to the disease, while some of them have lost their sources of income.

The participants gained a better understanding of community-level transmission. They were sent to the community as ambassadors to educate others on how to protect themselves by wearing face masks and maintaining physical distancing

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