Covid-19 worsens plight of disabled people in Vietnam

By Sen    May 16, 2020 | 10:00 pm PT
Covid-19 worsens plight of disabled people in Vietnam
A woman sells lottery tickets on a wheelchair in HCMC. Photo by Shutterstock/T.B.
Almost all disabled people in Vietnam are worried about their financial situation amid the Covid-19 pandemic, a U.N. survey has found.

The United Nations Development Program asked 968 respondents across the country last month about employment, health issues and main needs during the pandemic.

Ninety six percent said they have concerns about their financial security.

Twenty eight percent said their income dropped in March, 72 percent said their March income was less than a million dong ($42). In comparison, a worker got an average monthly salary last year of $242.

The declining earnings meant 21 percent more people with disabilities were classified as poor compared to the previous 12 months.

Almost 30 percent of the respondents relied on savings to survive.

The pandemic, which has robbed nearly five million Vietnamese workers of their jobs as of mid-April, cost 30 percent of respondents their jobs.

Among those who still have jobs, half face working hour cuts and 59 percent from pay cuts.

Only 3 percent said they are actively looking for another job while 19 percent said they are "exploring additional ways."

Two thirds of the working respondents have seasonal or informal jobs or are informal business owners, which possibly make them ineligible for unemployment allowances from the government.

Early last month Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc unveiled a VND62 trillion ($2.6 billion) financial support package for poor people and businesses affected by the pandemic.

Only people who are certified as severely and extremely severely disabled are automatically entitled to benefits.

"This shows the significance of immediate disability-inclusive response because they are already the poorest of the poor, have now lost their job and cannot find alternative sources of income," the survey said.

Nguyen Khanh, who works at Hanoi Association of People with Disabilities with over 14,500 members, many of whom took part in the survey, said members who have lost their jobs have been taking marketing online courses or do gig works at home.

Some sell homemade cake and milk tea or home appliances and cosmetics online, Khanh said.

While those recognized by the government’s relief package has received the support, many people who migrated to Hanoi for work or study have not, because their hometowns have never granted them a disability card, he said.

Respondents said they were well and timely updated about the epidemic response. But only 16 percent said they have been supported with food, while 13 percent received some form of financial support.

Only a fifth have received free masks and hand sanitizers, while a fraction (3 percent) have received training in health responses such as hand washing, a very low rate for a group at high risk.

According to a 2016 National Survey on Persons with Disabilities, there are around 6.2 million people living with disabilities, accounting for 7 percent of the population.

The number has increased due to the aging population and traffic accidents.

The survey also pointed out that households with disabled persons are twice as likely to be poor as other households.

Over 4 percent of the respondents were from ethnic minority groups like the Tay, H’mong and Nung.

Dao Thu Huong, People with Disabilities Right officer of UNDP, said that because the diversity and number of respondents belonging to ethnic groups were less than the organization expected and due to the survey's rapid nature, they "could not make a deep analysis of their particular challenges."

Challenges for women with disabilities working in the informal sector could be greater than for men, Huong said, adding that double discrimination against their gender and disability could worsen their situation.

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