TIV: No hugging and no criticizing

Dr Tokon

As much as the whole country has prayed against any arrival of COVID-19 case in the country, a confirmed case is now here. While the social media has turned the poor young man into a scare and unwanted stigma, Transparency International Vanuatu (TIV) can humbly thank the Lord that the young man remains in good health while local health authorities continue to monitor him.

At the same time, TIV wishes to advise the social media against any unwarranted criticism and abuse against the suspect as it is both unfair on him and his family as well as the fact that he has been very co-operative with the Health Authorities and has followed all the required protocols required of him.

Meanwhile, TIV is appealing to the public to obey both the Prime Minister and the COVID-19 Committee to respect all protocols especially with regards to hand washing with soap before and after entering all business houses, as well as to take appropriate precautions while coughing and to respect social distancing everywhere in a crowd.

In another illegal act, as reported by the Daily Post Newspaper in its November 12, Issue 6144 of this week, concerning a “surge” in domestic violence up to 250 cases this year compared to previous years, is indeed alarming.

All families especially women and children experiencing first-hand the impact of COVID-19 by way of lack of money due to loss of jobs, and not being able to pay the bills or perhaps put food on the table for the family, all add up to astronomical frustrations not experienced before.

According to the article, even landlords may be tempted to consider abuse of clients for not settling their rents. These are global acts which are finally filtering into the country and we at TIV won’t tolerate such abuse ever. We can be contacted on phone number 25715 or 7369592 for advice or direction in relations to domestic abuse.

TIV and Vanuatu Society of People Living with Disabilities (VSPD), stand up for respect of all people living with disabilities because while they may be referred to as “disabled”, in God’s eyes and all those organisations that represent them, it is made very clear that despite their physical and/or mental conditions, they have the same right to be treated like every other person.

Here are some treatments to watch out for, in a family home:

• Hitting or otherwise physically assaulting orphysically abusing a child;

• Developing a physical or sexual relationship with a child;

• Developing a relationship with a child which could, in any way, be deemed exploitive or abusive;

• Acting in ways that may be abusive or may place a child at risk of abuse;

• Use language, make suggestions or offer advice which is inappropriate, offensive or abusive;

• Behaving physically in a manner which is inappropriate or sexually provocative;

• Having a child/children to stay overnight at their home unsupervised by parents;

• Relatives sleeping alone in the same room or in the same bed as a child;

• Doing things for a child of a nature that they can reasonably do for themselves;

• Condoning or participating in behavour of a child which is illegal, unsafe or abusive;

• Acting in ways intended to shame, humiliate, belittle or degrade children, or otherwise perpetrate any form of emotional abuse;

• Discriminating against, showing differential treatment or favouring particular children to the exclusion of others.

All persons and any family member who suspects an incidence of an abuse of any form, of a disabled person are urged to advise the Managing Director of VSPD, Mr. Ellison Bovu in Port Vila or the VSPD Branch closest to their community.

Tragically, a large number of abuse of individuals living with disabilities are perpetrated by persons closest to them, namely grandfather, father or uncle, breaking the trust the victims have on them. So where is their safety?

Who can they trust? Where do they go to enjoy the respect they deserve? This is their dilemma. You and me have to recognise all persons living with disabilities for who they are, and to treat them with the respect that they deserve; that is, treat them with respect as we would treat another normal people.

To conclude, here is a true story. VSPD had a champion who lived his entire life at Lolowai overlooking Lolowai Bay in North East Ambae. This is the story he shared with his brother.

“I have a best friend from Maewo. We came to know each other over the phone because I have a landline that my clients ask me to use. I make their calls and connect them to their relatives on either Maewo, Pentecost or other parts of Ambae or anywhere else in Vanuatu.

“One day my friend from Maewo called me and promised to come to Lolowai by water taxi to bring me some fresh water taro from his garden. I waited and watched as the boat entered the harbour through the narrow channel at Vuinago Cliff.

“I studied his face as he walked towards my office with water taro bundle in hand. He placed the bundle at my office door and turned his face on the road. He ignored me. He was waiting for his ‘friend’ – the man he got to know very well through his voice over the phone.

“After almost an hour of staring in the wrong direction towards Lolowai Hospital, he glanced behind him and I said, ‘Gud moning’ and asked, ‘Yu stap weit long wan man?’

“Yes”, he replied then continued, “hemi bes fren blong mi, mi tufala i save mitufala long taem. Yestede mi bin promes blong visitim hem tede mo mitim hem long doa

long ofis blong yu”.

“Be yutufala i bin mitim yutufala bifo finis?”

“No, mitufala is save mitufala long vois nomo be tede ia nao blong mitufala i mit”.

The man in the bookshop wheeled his chair closer to him and told him not to worry or wait any longer. The man from Maewo turned and asked him, “From wanem yu talem olsem?”

“Because I am your friend who always speaks to you on the telephone”.

The man saw his best friend in person for the first time and was almost in tears for turning his back on him.

He never knew that this friend of his, was one of those

persons living with a disability. The truth about this particular man was that he never saw himself as a person living with disability. He was a victim of polio.

He was perhaps the longest living person on a wheelchair. He was given his first wheelchair by Lolowai Hospital at 16 years old.

He went on to live an independent life and worked to earn his own way through life. This story is written in the past tense because he has passed away on.

The Managing Director of VSPD, Mr. Bovu knew him very well and described him as an example of someone special who successfully rose above his disability to become a professional that people looked up to for help in times of need.

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