UN independent human rights experts fear a needless increase in coronavirus deaths due to discrimination and urged governments on Monday to commit to racial equity and equality in their response to the pandemic.
The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent said structural discrimination could worsen inequalities in access to healthcare and treatment, which could lead to a rise in disease and death rates among people of African descent.
“Despite robust responses, States have not recognised the specific health risks faced by people of African descent or how racial discrimination and implicit bias and racial stereotypes may pervade policy”, chair Ahmed Reid said in a statement, reports UN News.
He said this also raises the parallel concern that even research and knowledge production in response to this crisis may overlook specific barriers to care or the racially discriminatory impact of policy.
The statement underlined the need for “stressed and overwhelmed healthcare workers and local leadership” to be given more guidance to prevent racial discrimination at this critical time. This includes having disaggregated data to ensure equitable treatment.
The Working Group also pointed out that “disproportionate numbers” of people of African descent are employed in service industries, live in densely populated communities, or face difficulties in accessing food and water, all of which impact risk and vulnerability.
“States using this pandemic to suspend or roll back human rights relating to affirmative action, the environment, public health, criminal justice, and governance, generally disproportionately impair people of African descent in ways that will persist, long after the crisis is resolved,” the statement said.
The Working Group was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council in line with a declaration adopted at the global conference on racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, held in South Africa in 2001.