Overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic, one mural at a time
“People who have two feet are struggling, how much more those of us with one foot?” Was Kwaku Asante Afful’s response to the question: “How has COVID-19 impacted you, and persons living with disabilities in Sefwi Wiawso?”
Kwaku is a 45-year-old polio survivor, farmer and artist. He lives in the Municipal district of the North West region of Ghana, and is married to the love of his life, Juliana. They have five children, one of whom is Afful’s very able assistant and JHS 2 student, Naana Yeboah, his 13-year-old daughter.
“Covid has impacted people with disabilities in very significant ways. Many of our businesses have collapsed. The campaign on COVID-19 encouraged everybody to practice social distancing. Unfortunately, for many disabled people, we are only able to move around with the help of others so when outbreak happened, all of a sudden our blind brothers who were used to strangers holding their hands, helping them cross the streets, or board vehicles etc, had people shouting at them whenever they bumped into somebody accidentally, and no one was willing to hold their hands.
Even before the pandemic, no one wanted to come near us because people still believe disabilities are curses for evil deeds committed by us or our relatives, so they’ve always avoided us, but now it is much worse.”
When Kwaku is not in Sefwi Gyatokrom with his family, tending to his rabbits, grass cutters, and chicken, he’s in Sefwi Wiawso painting signboards and murals or building checkers (draught) boards and was the first to come to mind when RISE Ghana and ProMag needed an artist to paint some murals educating people on COVID-19 safety protocols and prevention.
Kwaku’s murals form part of 80 commissioned by UNICEF, through selected Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) like RISE Ghana, ProMag, Dawah Academy, BIDO, Community Radio Network, Theatre for Social Change and Amplio Ghana, in the framework of their support to the Government and people of Ghana.
These selected CSOs will engage communities across the length and breadth of the country with information on how to prevent or reduce the spread of COVID-19 infections with practicing regular hand washing, keeping social distance and wearing face masks when in public.
They will use different creative activations such as market storms, house-to-house campaigns, public broadcasting, van announcements, interactive theatre performances, painting of murals, and advocacy meetings with religious and community leaders. Currently, video clips, InfoJingles and posters on COVID-19 preventive behaviours continue to be distributed though vaccine roll outs have started.
On the days when Kwaku and his daughter are not painting murals or at home with family, he likes to do some advocacy work. “I got a call from my blind friend, Isaac Nkuah, from Sefwi Domeabra, that a lot of the children are no longer going to school. When the government closed schools because of COVID-19, a lot of them started riding motorbikes and Pragia tricycles commercially, so now they’re no longer interested in going to school.
I will be joining with the Ministry of Children to sensitize the community on why it is important for the children- all the children, including those with disabilities, to be in school.”
Mr. Kwaku Asante Afful is the President of the Ghana Federation of Disability Organizations, Sefwi Wiawso Municipal, and considers raising awareness on COVID-19, his moral duty.