COVID-19 and Human Rights

How can we start protecting our vulnerable for Coronavirus pandemics?

The implications of COVID 19 are terrible for everyone, but especially difficult for the poorer sections of society that might not have access to clean running water for drinking and hand washing and facilities for general hygiene.  National emergency plans often overlook the more vulnerable members of society, even in western states, and there needs to be an imperative to improve conditions for these people immediately, for their own sakes, and to control infection rates.

For example, only 53% of schools in the developing world have access to clean water for hygiene[1], and only 66% have access to basic toilets. Conditions for people that are incapacitated due to age, infirmities, or health conditions are not respected and protected in the way that they should. Nomadic, migrant or refugee populations are severely limited in terms of social distancing and abilities to contain infection. Indigenous, or marginalised rural communities, people living in slums, and the more impoverished sectors of society often live without clean and safe water and sanitation. 

When there is little safely treated and clean water available, how are marginalised communities able to stay healthy, not only with safe drinking water but also sufficient water for handwashing and hygiene. Efficient waste-water management, and especially sewage treatment, is critically important to prevent recontamination of water sources.

Guidance for governments on how to prioritise access to WASH for vulnerable groups is going to be critical in the fight for overcoming Corona Virus pandemics. Such guidance needs to be clear, concise, and easy to implement.  It also needs to be available quickly, and accessible to all. It is a huge opportunity to bring the spotlight onto the needs of vulnerable people in the context of water and sanitation, and its relation to health for the whole community.

HR2W has researched the way that countries have built the human rights to water into their legislation and policy, identifying how resilient they are with respect to pandemics and other emergencies. The result is a 23 country analysis, benchmarking the results, and enabling the development of a Declaration with the support of our Expert Committee. There is massive potential for governments to increase resilience to climate and health emergencies, with some careful planning and management of water. Please read more about this declaration and our work on this topic on our news pages.

Please refer to WHO guidelines for how to stay safe. Human Right 2 Water is also starting work on specific legislation for longer term protection through the international standards and norms that sit behind the human rights to water and sanitation. If you would like to support on this effort, please contact us for more information.