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Reference : V-P-CM-E-00146
Date : 06/2020
Country/Region : CAMEROON
Caption : Jules, 24, in his final year of secondary school at the Adventist School in the city. He is a resident of the Foyer Colonel-Daniel-de-Rouffignac for visually impaired people.
Photographer : BELOUMOU, Daniel
Confidentiality level : public
Publication restrictions : publication without restrictions
Copyright : ICRC
Description : ICRC website, article, 24.06.2020
Cameroon: Navigating the distance created by COVID-19
How do you practice social distancing when you’re blind or visually impaired? Soubiane, Judith, Emmanuel, Brigitte, Jules and Bienvenu all live together in a home for visually impaired people on the outskirts of Yaoundé, Cameroon. They recently told photographer Daniel Beloumou how COVID-19 had affected their daily lives. They may feel more cut-off from the rest of the world, but their optimism and camaraderie help them carry on.
"The home is open to everyone, be they blind, visually impaired, abandoned, orphaned or troubled," says Edwige Mbazoa, now 86, who for more than 20 years has run the Foyer Colonel-Daniel-de-Rouffignac. Under her care and guidance, the couple dozen children and young people who live there are dreaming of finding their place in the wider world, despite the obstacles they face.
To help the home in these difficult times, the ICRC and the Cameroon Red Cross Society have provided handwashing stations and hygiene items. We also taught the children how to take precautionary measures.
Edwige, who works tirelessly on behalf of the children in her home, is proud to be able to help them find their way in the world: "Some of them have become lawyers, teachers or engineers. A disability cannot be an excuse for excluding someone from society." The potential for the spread of COVID-19 has changed things for us at the home. Edwige told us that the crisis "has siphoned away all the funding. The people and organizations that usually support us aren't giving as much."
The residents of the home might be more isolated from the rest of the world, but the ties between them remain just as close.
Since the government implemented the restrictions, we've been on our own, a bit isolated. The isolation protects us. Even though it's hard for us to keep our distance, we are all doing our best. There's always water in the buckets, with soap next to it. Everyone who leaves wears a mask and washes their hands when they get back.
I think it's important not to confuse physical distancing – the space between people – with social distancing – the difference in status between people in society. Before the pandemic, I was sometimes a victim of social distancing. I was stigmatized, and with coronavirus it's even worse, it makes things hard.
I don't have any contact with society anymore, and no work. My friends, my family, benefactors, strangers – almost no one stops by anymore. Before, I would leave to go to school and church, and I played blind football and did martial arts.
I've been living in the home for 14 years, and I would like to become a priest.
"My social life has been reduced to almost nothing. If coronavirus were a person, I'd give it a piece of my mind!"
On the rare occasions when they do go out, they take all the precautions they can. They’re taking things one step at a time.
Original material : digital
Resolution : 4333x6500
Orientation : portrait
Colour/B&W : colour