Sharecare Ghana - Caring for persons with autoimmune and neurological conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic

 

In March 2020, Ghana reported its first case of the novel coronavirus. With the numbers of cases increasing ever since and globally, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the virus as a pandemic and requested for nation states to put in place measures to curb the spread. The Government of Ghana and other stakeholders continued to issue directives on prevention, and planned emergency response activities for the citizens. Unfortunately, the response activities and information dissemination have not adequately included disability and access to persons with disabilities such as persons with autoimmune and neurological conditions.

Sharecare Ghana, an organisation of persons with autoimmune and neurological conditions with support from the International Alliance of Patients’ Organizations (IAPO), undertook activities to bring to light the psychosocial impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the lives of persons with autoimmune and neurological conditions which might never have had the level of attention required.

The activities carried out were a webinar to discuss the extreme levels of fear and anxiety suffered by persons with autoimmune and neurological conditions as well as caregivers in this COVID-19 pandemic era, and a social media campaign dubbed “The Autoimmune/Neurological – COVID-19 Psychosocial Experience”. We developed IEC materials to educate and inform persons with autoimmune and neurological conditions on what to do to stay safe during the period and also share their experiences especially on their psychosocial complications during the pandemic. Here are some examples of our social media posts:

Post 1 | Facebook

Post 2 | Facebook

Post 3 | Facebook

Post 4 | Instagram

During the webinar held on 26th November 2020, a caregiver shared her COVID-19 experience with participants. “As a mother of a child with special needs it hasn’t been easy going through the pandemic and the difficulties attached to it. The needs of my child were difficult to come by financially, and adhering to the laid down protocols like social distancing is very difficult to do because my son has to be attended to always,” she said.

Esenam Abra Drah from the Mental Health Society of Ghana shared her experience during the webinar. She gave tips and advice on what to do to protect your mental health during the pandemic, and answered questions from participants. She advised that staying less or totally off the news and other sources of information on the pandemic was a good way of protecting your mental health since in many cases, it caused fear and anxiety as the number of deaths were announced and kept going high. She emphasised on adhering to the laid down protocols such as practicing social distancing, washing hands with soap under running water, using approved hand sanitizer, and said in doing these, we will be fine.

COVID-19 threatens not only the lives of persons with autoimmune and neurological conditions, but their independence. Persons with disabilities especially persons with autoimmune and neurological conditions are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 due to barriers in accessing preventive information and hygiene, reliance on physical contact with the environment or support persons, as well as their compromised immune systems. Also, implementing quarantines, lockdown and similar restrictive programmes to curb the spread of the coronavirus, have caused disruptions in services vital for many persons with disabilities and undermines basic rights such as food, health care, water and sanitation, and communications, leading to abandonment, isolation and institutionalization in some cases.

Those with pre-existing mental health conditions suffer the most from the psychosocial complications and implications of the coronavirus. They experience heightened levels of fear, anxiety and depression and, due to social distancing measures, most sufferers have been unable to engage in social activities that could relieve them of these mental complications.

 

How to find us

Website: www.sharecare4u.org

Facebook: Sharecare Ghana

Twitter: @sharecareghana

Instagram: sharecareghana