The response to the emergency situation that Ukraine and the whole world are facing now with the COVID-19 pandemic must be grounded in the principles of public trust, transparency, respect and empathy for the most vulnerable. From the beginning, we, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, have been monitoring the human rights impact of the crisis.
While the pandemic affects all of us in different ways, some people can be disproportionately affected by the crisis. The pandemic is exposing the damaging impact of inequalities, in every society, exposing fault-lines in access to health care; in labor rights and social protections; in living-space; and in dignity.
We launched a #leavenoonebehind video-campaign with observations and guidance on addressing the concerns of the most vulnerable groups and ensuring that we leave no one behind.
People in detention facilities
Detained persons are especially vulnerable in times of pandemic. If COVID-19 reaches detention facilities, it would be very difficult to contain. 3 key measures are needed to protect people in detention:
1. reduce overcrowding in detention facilities;
2. provide detainees and penitentiary staff with equipment and instructions on personal protection;
3. ensure protection against ill treatment or torture, access to adequate healthcare and information regarding the risks related to COVID-19.
WHO guidance on Preparedness, prevention and control of COVID-19 in prisons and other places of detention – http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-determinants/prisons-and-health/publications/2020/preparedness,-prevention-and-control-of-covid-19-in-prisons-and-other-places-of-detention,-15-march-2020?fbclid=IwAR2zMHRPMFaoozluIm-3_9zri5xP9SYB-JC9Zg05pYZmRuxCMmfPAyxNMm0
Persons living in homelessness
The situation of persons living in homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic is also of concern. Due to strict quarantine measures, homeless people have less access to health care services, shelter, food, water, hygiene and sources of income.
No one should be left behind. We recommend to the authorities to:
1. allow municipal and charitable organisations that provide support to homeless people to continue their operations during the quarantine;
2. provide homeless people with access to adequate medical treatment and testing;
3. provide shelter with sanitary facilities, which comply with norms and recommendations of the World Health Organization and are regularly disinfected;
4. consider opening under strict sanitary measures railway and bus station facilities;
5. take measures to prevent cases of violence and discrimination against homeless people by the police, other state or local authorities and individuals.
Older persons in long-term care facilities
COVID-19 has been reported among residents and staff in long term-care facilities for older persons in three regions of Ukraine. To ensure that people do not contract the virus, we strongly recommend that the Government implements the following measures:
1. Prioritize testing of residents and staff in all long-term care facilities for older persons and provide such facilities with sufficient personal protective equipment;
2. Provide necessary health services to treat cases of COVID-19 and other diseases, and psychological support;
3. Facilitate older people’s access to digital communication or alternative ways to stay in touch with their families;
4. Create adequate living conditions for staff who have to work on longer shifts during the pandemic, and provide care for their children;
5. Provide specific instructions on pandemic prevention and mitigation measures to be taken by these facilities, including private ones, and establish a mechanism to supervise their implementation.
To ensure that no one is left behind, we need to stay united, stand up against hate speech and show support and solidarity, especially towards the most vulnerable groups. Each and every one of us can speak out against discrimination. The Government should support all and members of society, including those in closed institutions. The Government should systematically engage and cooperate closely with civil society when developing and implementing measures to address the pandemic.