When Disabilities And Inequality Meet In A Pandemic

What happens to the poor during self quarantine? And what happens to the disabled who don’t have support? What happens when you are both? Makgosi Letimile asks.  

I am a disabled woman, I have been fortunate to afford living in an accessible home and even then the accessibility is limited because I can’t take a stroll down the road without assistance. Before the lockdown I used to uber to the supermarket across the street from my house because the city is not accessible as it should be. I’ve now started using apps to order groceries for Tumi and I. Tumi is my baby brother who rents in Khayelitsha, we both relocated to Cape Townfor job and learning opportunities and it was all going well even during the pandemic. We met once a week for his grocery run – but that has come to an end because of lockdown. Tumi has also lost his internship, which has meant that I’m looking after him full time. Thankfully, I still have my salary and my friends chip in to keep us fed. He tells me he applied for the R350 grant and it was turned down, so there goes that too. 

The increase in food prices while paying full rent & feeding 2 households has been a battle and a half. I am going through a lot mentally and emotionally and I have been grateful for the weekly check ups because it has meant that I’m not completely alone all the time.. This came to an end when Tumi told me he suspected that he had caught the virus and he doesn’t know what to do. First thing I thought of is how will he get his food if he can’t come over. I don’t want him to leave the house and infect other people.

I’m sitting in my flat trying to think of how to get him medication, I suspect there is no delivery service for pharmacies in Khayelitsha so he will have to ask somebody to drop it off for him and risk being stigmatised. Maybe  I could get the medication  and drive to Khayelitsha to give to him. I’m trying to figure out the best way forward while he reassures me he is still feeling as well as can be – except for chest pains and nausea. I’m stressing that he is sick and alone and he can’t even get food.

I use my local clinic for my day to day care, it’s in District 6 and my anxiety has worsened as infections rise. The thought of leaving the house terrifies me so much that the last time I had to leave the house I cried in the shower out of sheer terror. I never want to experience that again and after trying unsuccessfully for a few days to get a hold of somebody at the clinic, I was informed my medication would be delivered to my home the following morning. Before 9:30am, I had my medication. I was impressed and grateful for a while until I remembered that I have a sick brother in Khayelitsha who could not even get medication on an app like I am able to with my groceries.

COVID-19 has exposed a lot of things and amongst them is how inequality compounded with spatial planning during a pandemic is a genocide waiting to happen. When people are not going hungry because they are unemployed, they go hungry because they can’t order food online. Should they be lucky they have food, God forbid they need medication because besides the clinic not being close by, I highly doubt that medication can be delivered in the townships.

It should appal and embarrass us that in a country where billions were pledged and donated, this is what South Africans have to contend with, besides all the other challenges we are faced with everyday. 

My baby brother being sick means for the next 14 to 21 days I won’t be able to see him and while he recovers, he is running out of food and he has a responsibility to stay home. South Africans deserve better and if we learn nothing from this, we must find a way to fix this country for the sake of us all. 

What happens to the poor during self quarantine? And what happens to the disabled who don’t have support? What happens when you are both?

Makgosi Letimile is a mom and a Disability Activist who trolls Twitter with sex toys at @humanlyawkward

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policies of The Daily Vox.

Featured image via Flickr