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Helping each other is in our blood

Scene from Sunamganj District in 2017, when a flash flood submerged the region. Zobaidur Rahman/Oxfam

Author: Elizabeth Stevens

NEWS UPDATE: A cyclone bore down on Bangladesh just the first cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the crowded refugee camps for the Rohingya – these coinciding crises create new challenges and even greater need. Read more.

When faced with the threat of flash floods, a cyclone, and COVID-19, an Oxfam partner in Bangladesh reached tens of thousands with life-saving messages, and more.

In Bangladesh, all eyes are on the water.

As the monsoon unfolds each year in the Meghalaya Hills of India to the north, the runoff rushes south, turning peaceful rivers into raging torrents that often overtop their banks and flood the countryside. In a bad year, flash floods destroy crops and sweep away houses, forcing the poorest families to start over again—from nothing.

Annual floods aren’t disasters in and of themselves. They are natural phenomena. It’s only when poverty and inequality become part of the equation that flooding becomes a crisis: the poorest people live in harm’s way because they can’t afford to live anywhere else.

Many of Bangladesh’s poorest live in the low-lying northeastern district of Sunamganj, where vast wetlands, or haors, dominate the landscape in the rainy season. Here, the fortunes of communities rise and fall with those of the rice crop—which in turn depends on the right amount of water arriving at the right moment of the year. Most people work as tenant farmers or day labourers; one way or another, all are dependent on the harvest to feed their families.

“Every day they sell their labour, and with the money they earn they buy that day’s essentials,” says Mohammed Seraj Islam. “Even before the floods, they are penniless.” Islam is the director of Efforts for Rural Advancement (ERA), an Oxfam partner in Bangladesh.

When flash floods strike, he says, the water comes suddenly. Families make what is often a dangerous journey from their flooded homes to informal shelters on higher ground, but the conditions there are often grim. Drinking water is usually contaminated, and crossing the turbulent water to reach health care providers is not an option. Women and girls may not have safe access to latrines, and may lack privacy for activities like breastfeeding. And there may be nothing to eat but rice. “You just eat to survive,” says Islam. “To stave off your hunger.”

When the water recedes, families that have lost their crops and incomes must sell their livestock and whatever else they can and migrate to find temporary work. But, as Islam says, when they reach Dhaka, employers often sense their desperation and offer terrible compensation.

Preparedness and inspiration

Knowing when and if floods are expected can reduce some of the risks these communities face. Each year, a multi-country network monitors the river flows, issuing warnings if floods are likely. In Sunamganj, ERA makes sure those warnings go the last mile. By late April of 2020, the Bangladeshi government knew flash floods were imminent and was urging an early harvest; ERA and its team of 500 volunteers—linking up with local religious leaders and community organisations—saw to it that the message reached the district’s far-flung communities.

At the time of this writing, ERA was poised to respond to the floods by deploying their contingency stocks, which include soap and detergent, sanitary napkins, antiseptic, oral rehydration salts, megaphones, and plastic buckets, as well as solar lights to make shelter life safer for women and girls. With enough funding, ERA also plans to distribute cash to many of the most vulnerable families—with a particular focus on women—so they can purchase food and other essentials.

ERA is one of 56 Bangladeshi organisations that Oxfam has supported through a three-year program aimed at strengthening their ability to carry out and lead humanitarian work. ERA staff learned how to transfer cash to hard-hit families, and how to launch emergency water and sanitation projects, for example, and now the organisation forms a crucial link between struggling communities of Sunamganj and disaster aid. “Now we are able to respond efficiently,” says Islam.

Disaster upon disaster

When the floods arrive, people take to the high ground and gather in shelters, but during this pandemic, a crowded shelter could be a very dangerous place to be. The cyclone season is also upon the region – with Cyclone Amphan making landfall just last week - but the cyclone shelters that dot the landscape of Bangladesh now look more than anything like future breeding grounds for the virus.

And the record-breaking outbreak of dengue that left hospitals overflowing in 2019? Many fear a recurrence, but it’s hard to imagine how any country could handle COVID-19 on top of such a health crisis. The scary truth is that a series of disasters is almost certain to strike Bangladesh in the coming weeks and months, and people seeking respite from them may put themselves squarely in the path of COVID-19.

ERA is doubling down to protect lives. It has added new elements to its planned flood response, such as delivering food to households where family members may be sick with COVID-19. And volunteers are disseminating messages about how to stay safe in the face of the disease—hoping soon to reach 55,000 people in the district.

But in Sunamganj and around the country, nothing short of a massive national preparedness and response effort—with international support—will keep the virus in check while enabling poor families to survive the shutdown. With income from jobs, day labour, and remittances from abroad slowed to a trickle, poor communities must now depend on the relief efforts of a government that is itself reeling from the effects of the pandemic.

“People confined to their homes are unable to meet their basic needs,” says Oxfam country director Dipankar Datta. “And now they are facing a host of additional crises.” In the short term, they urgently need access to soap and water, and cash to buy essentials like food and medicines—and the organisations that deliver aid need support to do their work. But catastrophes like this don’t just happen naturally, says Datta, and meeting the immediate needs is only part of the picture. “Inequality means some people are born into safety while others must fight for their lives from day one,” he says. “The real disaster here is poverty.”

For poor communities in Bangladesh, the near future looks bleak, but Islam, who was born and raised in Sunamganj, takes the long view.

“The people of this district have been fighting disasters for thousands of years, and we are still here. Forty or fifty years ago in big emergencies, when we had even less government support and worse communications, villagers organised themselves to deliver food to people in remote areas,” he says. “We will be able to face these challenges. We have strength and unity, and we know we are fighters. Helping each other is in our blood.”

In Bangladesh, Oxfam and 23 partner organisations have stepped up work on helping the poorest communities gain access to clean water and sanitation facilities, and the materials and information they need to protect their health through safe hygiene. The crowded camps for Rohingya refugees are particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19; Oxfam and partners are providing water, sanitation, and hygiene support to 173,000 camp residents and 9,000 people in the surrounding communities. With enough funding, we also aim to deliver cash to 100,000 families, enabling them to buy food and other essentials from local businesses that are also struggling in this crisis.

Your donation today can help slow the spread of COVID-19. Our teams are scaling up this work globally with the support of people like you.

This disease knows no borders and does not discriminate. For the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, the worst is yet to come as the coronavirus begins to establish itself and spread quickly through communities powerless to stop it, without access to water, sanitation or healthcare.

Together, we can save lives.

A Kenyan mother’s solitary battle with hunger and COVID- 19

Blog post by Blandina Ijecha Bobson Oxfam Great Britain

Life before COVID-19 was good, according to 38-year-old mother Beatrice Achungo Mbendo.

Beatrice is a single mother with four children aged between two and 13 years old, and she is five months pregnant with her fifth child. She lives in Kangemi, one of the informal settlements in Nairobi. She arrived in 2007- the same year she started engaging in paid domestic work to earn a living. Beatrice is what’s known as a “stone lady”- a name used to describes women - mostly from the informal settlements - who sit on stones in leafy suburbs of Nairobi and wait for middle-class citizens to offer them casual domestic jobs- a trade Beatrice has used to provide education, shelter, food and healthcare for her family since 2007.

Beatrice’s’ husband was employed when they met in 2007 but lost his job after two years. He then struggled to maintain a steady stream of informal jobs in the construction industry until the couple eventually separated.

“My husband left me five months ago after we found out I was two weeks pregnant. He wasn’t happy about it. I have tried to look for him, but nobody knows where he is, including his family”.

“Stone Ladies” left out in the cold

“Even if we couldn’t afford a good diet, we had three meals a day.” She had four regular clients from whom she earned at least KES 3500 (or about 33 USD) weekly. She would spend the money to meet her family’s basic needs and save some of the money for rent.

“Now things are really bad, we even miss breakfast in the morning. My children would eat something small during lunch and wait for me with the hope that I will come back with something in the evening. If I don’t come back with anything, we sleep hungry. Things are really bad. I am single parent, in my condition with nothing and no one to turn to.”

One time her family of five went for two days without food. She was so distraught that she left her house in tears to look for something to eat. “God heard my cries. One employer brought us 2 kgs of maize flour, sugar and cooking oil which got me through for a few days.”

As governments worldwide are fighting tooth and nail against COVID-19, domestic workers like Beatrice are spending sleepless nights worrying about where their family’s next meal will come from. The pandemic has dealt a huge blow to domestic workers as their employers have taken all necessary measures to keep their families safe, including letting go domestic workers that managed their homes before COVID-19 struck.

Beatrice says that her life changed the minute the government announced the first confirmed COVID-19 case.

“All my employers called me and cancelled on me. They told me to wait until COVID-19 has been contained then they will call me for work. It’s been two months since I last went to anyone’s house to do laundry and clean.”

Her landlord hasn’t spared her either. He has been calling her to ask for the two months’ rent she already owes.

“I explained to him that I don’t have any work. Every morning I go to the waiting place hoping to get something but nothing. There are so many of us waiting and hoping to get work.”

She openly admits that she prioritises any money she gets for feeding her children. Rent is currently not a priority over their survival. If the worst comes to the worst, she is ready to sleep in a ditch with her children as long as they have food.

Unemployed caregivers ‘collateral damage’ in GoK fight against Covid-19

Beatrice explained that because of COVID-19, the local administration and the police have been chasing them and asking them to go and stay at home until the disease is contained.

“But we can’t, we have widows here, you have single parents like me and even those who have spouses, their spouses have lost their jobs. There’s no way we can stay at home. The only thing that makes us come here every day even when the police chase us is the kids. When they chase us, we just go into hiding and come back. We just hope to get even a kilogram of maize flour per day.”

Beatrice says she diligently practices all the measures endorsed by the government to protect her family. Every morning when she leaves her house, she reminds her children to play in the house or just outside the door. When she gets to the waiting place, she doesn’t shake anyone’s hands, tries to maintain social distance and has a mask to cover her mouth and nose.

“When I buy the piece of soap for washing clothes, whatever remains I tell my children to use it to wash their hands. I have taught my children the importance of washing hands and they have put that into practice. When they started talking about COVID-19, I was working for a Doctor. His wife gave me a mask. It’s a disposable mask, but I wash it when I get home and hang it to dry - I can’t afford to buy a mask every day.”

Even as she and the other “stone ladies” undertake the preventive measures, Beatrice says none of them knows anyone who has been taken ill. They are just surprised how a disease that neither of them has suffered from has changed everything. The face of COVID-19 for them is joblessness and hunger.

The government stimulus package has not benefited her even though she was among the people who were registered to benefit. She highlighted that she has heard from her neighbours that some people had received food aid (2kgs of beans, 3 packets of maize flour, 2kgs of sugar and 1 litre of cooking oil), and some had received KES 2000 on their mobile phones. She feels the targeting and distribution wasn’t done in a transparent and accountable manner. She also hasn’t felt the benefit of the reduction in taxes.

“Even if they reduced taxes on food, if you are not working how does that benefit you? You have to work to get money to go and buy food to benefit from the tax reductions.”

An uncertain future for six

Given a chance, Beatrice would like to tell the government that:

“We have COVID-19 in the country and everyone wants it contained. The president can lock the county for two months but before that, he should ensure that they conduct an exercise similar to census and list all the households with vulnerable women like me, then give us food aid enough to last us two months. We will lock ourselves and stay with our children at home for two months until the disease is contained. But if they can’t do this, they should just let us work.”

For now, Beatrice has no plans for the future on how to cope with the impact of COVID-19.

“I just sit by myself and tell God, I have nothing. I have no plans. If I don’t get anything from well-wishers, I won’t hide; my kids and I will sleep hungry. If this continues like this, the only thing left is death. I feel like my life has hit rock bottom.”

This disease knows no borders and does not discriminate. For the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, the worst is yet to come as the coronavirus begins to establish itself and spread quickly through communities powerless to stop it, without access to water, sanitation or healthcare.

Together, we can save lives.

COVID-19 and Climate

Coronavirus is a real and pressing crisis. One which required and will continue to require a collaborative, intensive, and invested response from ourselves and our governments. In the face of this, we must remember that the climate crisis is similarly urgent and requires the same showing of solidarity seen throughout this pandemic. The solidarity seen across the globe as people refrained from seeing loved ones, stayed indoors, and sheltered our most vulnerable was a glimmer of light during this time of darkness. This kind solidarity, this unified change we all made in response to the pandemic, is desperately needed to combat climate change.

Unfortunately, many sectors are utilising the pandemic to renegotiate or to violate their obligations to cut emissions under the European Green Deal. For example, steel and cement corporations are lobbying the European Commission on emission allowances. Airlines are similarly using the recession caused by the virus to delay their climate targets.

In the face of this, the Green Deal is essential to provide a policy framework for a just recovery. A framework that will help us build back from the pandemic and the recession. We must ensure that the recovery of the economy is not prioritised above our ecosystem. The foundation of this recovery should be to combat climate change and further the new deal while still recognising the reality we are in. The Institution of European Environmental Policy recommends that we further Green Deal reforms while ensuring that a just transition is in place for those effected by these reforms and the pandemic. They recognise the importance of reaching those furthest behind first and by future proofing investments made during this time to ensure that our children will not pay the price.

On a government level, we must ensure that funding allocated to combating climate change in poor countries is not reallocated to fighting the coronavirus domestically. Jan Kowalzig, the senior climate policy advisor for Oxfam International said:

“Tackling the health crisis must be the priority, but governments cannot afford to ignore the escalating climate crisis wreaking havoc across the globe. Poor countries, struggling to cope with the devastating impacts of climate change, must now deal with the coronavirus as well. Severe drought is fueling hunger across Southern Africa and Central America, while vulnerable people from Bangladesh to Vanuatu face increasingly destructive storms. It is more important than ever that rich polluting countries deliver on their promises to provide $100 billion a year by 2020 to help poor countries cut emissions and adapt to a changing climate. Ministers must also ensure that economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic does not supercharge the climate crisis. They must build back better – more resilient low carbon economies - that deliver a safer and more secure future for all."

In Ireland, the presumptive government of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael published a draft document on a plan to recover, rebuild, and renew Ireland after the COVID-19 emergency. The document contained 10 missions ranging from healthcare to housing. It is promising that one of the missions directly addresses a New Green Deal and highlights the need for carbon reduction targets, just transition, and an increased carbon tax. It is fundamental that these are enshrined in law as soon as possible in light of the pandemic and recession. While many of the points on the draft documents are positive, we must future proof the planned investments, particularly around land development and infrastructure changes, to ensure that they are carried out through a green lens. Another point of note is that the draft document does not address Overseas Development Assistance or climate change spending internationally. As Kowlazig noted above, poorer countries need support to fight COVID-19 and combat climate change.

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The WASH specialist from Sihay: coronavirus insights from an ex-Oxfamer’s 15 years’ experience

Picture of Margaret during a visit to Mahama Burundi refugee camp in Rwanda
Margaret (R) during a visit to Mahama Burundi refugee camp in Rwanda when a water storage tank was under construction by Oxfam in November 2015. Photo by Mark Chitelesi/Oxfam.

“My fear is that COVID-19 cases are increasing in the region when most countries are not very well prepared. Some countries are already weakened by multiple crises such as droughts, floods and locusts.” - Margaret

Margaret Apiyo Asewe grew up in a tiny village in Kenya called Sihay in Siaya County, Ugenya Sub-County. She grew up seeing children and adults suffer due to limited water access. She herself walked two kilometres every morning and evening to fetch water from river ‘Nyachim’. She saw how diarrhoea related diseases affected her community - this inspired her to work as a public health nurse. Margaret has just retired after working with Oxfam for 15 years - leading improvements in water access, sanitation, and hygiene for people Oxfam work with across the world.

Her credentials?

  • Strengthening dialogue between communities and Oxfam.
  • Championing a dynamic rethink of the humanitarian-development.
  • Supporting over 16 countries (including Afghanistan, Chad, DRC, Ethiopia, Haiti, Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Somali, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda) in emergency WASH programmes during droughts, Tsunami, earthquake, typhoon, floods, conflict and disease outbreaks such as Ebola, and recently, COVID-19.

Margaret lays all her achievements at the feet of the belief that everyone has a role to play in fighting inequality and in ending poverty and injustice - and she continues to rise, championing the need to utilise local systems during humanitarian responses.

Martin Namasaka, Oxfam’s Horn East and Central Africa (HECA) Regional Media and Communications Advisor, recently spoke with Margaret who is at her home in flood-hit Kisumu, western Kenya, from his home in drizzly Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

HECA: Burundi, DRC, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan, Somalia, South Sudan and Tanzania

Martin: Apiyo? Not a name I would say I heard before. What does it mean?
Margaret: Apiyo means the first twin. I have a twin sister, who works in the health sector too.

Martin: What have you been engaged in while working at Oxfam?
Margaret: I had the chance to work in different capacities during my time at Oxfam. These include the Public Health Promotion Team (PHP) Team Leader, PHP capacity builder, PHP coordinator and most recently as the HECA Regional WASH Advisor. In my capacity as the HECA Regional WASH Advisor, I was at the forefront of advocating for the community engagement approach in our programming in the region. I represented Oxfam in various high-level platforms such as the WASH cluster working group, cholera platforms, the WHO and health partners meetings and many more.

I was in West Africa during the 2014 – 2016 Ebola outbreak and I have been here during the COVID-19 pandemic, supporting country offices within HECA in prevention and preparedness. Besides supporting recruitment of WASH teams in the region, I also provided technical support, guidance, and capacity building to staff and partners. This strengthened programme quality and regional staff skills in humanitarian programming, disaster risk reduction and building links between long-term livelihood interventions and public health priorities.

Oxfam has a long history of developing new innovations and technologies, and since 2004 I have supported field testing and feedback of these innovations for emergency responses. It is important to listen to communities and when changing our programming we should always consider feedback from affected communities.

Some of the innovations and technologies that I have supported include hand washing practices especially for children, e.g. 'Mums’ Magic Hands' which encourages hand washing practices at critical times. Others include testing of sustainable sanitation – urine diversion toilets, tiger worm toilet and community engagement in WASH.

Handwashing nudges research in 2017-2018 to motivate handwashing outside latrines in Nduta camp in Tanzania
Handwashing nudges research in 2017-2018 to motivate handwashing outside latrines in Nduta camp in Tanzania. Photo by Margaret Asewe/Oxfam.

Martin: What challenges do you see in the WASH Sector and what does it mean for the COVID-19 response?
Margaret: Often, WASH works separately from the health sector, there is now a need for these activities to be considered an essential public health intervention.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents a challenge for those of us working in the water, sanitation, and hygiene sector – the current situation is a good time for WASH professionals to re-envision their strategies — and to do it quickly.

People living in densely populated settings — including urban areas, refugee and internally displaced people camps, and prisons — are especially vulnerable.

Margaret conversing with partners during a visit to IDP camps in Wau, South Sudan
Margaret conversing with partners during a visit to IDP camps in Wau, South Sudan, to support the Ebola preparedness work.

There are also questions and concerns around the technical capacity of WASH workers. Travel restrictions limit the ability of organisations to send experts to countries struggling to control the virus. Because of this, we need to use the expertise that is already on the ground as much as possible. The scale of COVID-19 emphasises the need for localisation of humanitarian responses. We are now seeing how important it is to strengthen and utilise local systems, particularly given the operational constraints on aid agencies and the scale of this crisis.

Existing ways of accessing communities may not be feasible during the COVID-19 pandemic because of the emphasis on social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus. Reaching more communities through digital and other social media platforms is now necessary.

Martin: What’s the future of the WASH sector?
Margaret: The WASH sector will remain relevant in humanitarian responses especially in the HECA region - double crises, conflict, climate-induced drought and flooding, locust infestation and food insecurity dominate the humanitarian context of the region. Traditional approaches to humanitarian assistance are constantly challenged by protracted emergencies with populations remaining displaced and dependent on humanitarian aid for many years. There is need to move beyond handouts and leverage on local systems especially during the COVID-19 response.

Access to safe water and sanitation is a major priority in these crises; a human right and vital component of ensuring dignity especially for people afflicted by and made more vulnerable by emergencies. Without access to safe water and sanitation services, displaced people are at a high risk of disease outbreaks as they have little choice but to live in conditions that are overcrowded and have scarce hygiene infrastructure.

Beyond COVID-19, there will always be the need for WASH in most humanitarian programmes. However, we may need to do it differently. The future of Oxfam’s relevance in the WASH sector depends on its ability to continue looking at technologies that offer better returns; both in terms of quality and quantity for water and sanitation; systems that facilitate sustained access to safe water and sanitation. But, most importantly adoption of approaches that encourage continued engagement with communities, listening to the voices of those we work with so that they can be part of generating solutions to their challenges and implementing them.

This disease knows no borders and does not discriminate. For the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, the worst is yet to come as the coronavirus begins to establish itself and spread quickly through communities powerless to stop it, without access to water, sanitation or healthcare.

Together, we can save lives.

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5 reasons why the COVID-19 crisis needs a feminist response now

Silhouette woman

Author: Christin Becker and Mara Brückner, Oxfam Germany

COVID-19 is currently occupying the entire world and requires action that takes into account the most vulnerable. Good crisis management requires more than just scientific research - it also requires a political and social response. Feminism has already developed the ideas that can now close the existing gaps of inequality, which have become even more obvious in our current shared time of crisis.

So here are five reasons why we need a feminist response now:

1. Each and every person is valuable.

Our actions must align with the fact that every person is valuable – accepting this fact is critical for each of us to live together in an increasingly interdependent world. The measures that governments take today will shape our future in the medium and long term. Anyone who sees existing inequalities and discrimination – whether based on gender, ethnic origin, age or state of health – as marginal issues that are not pressing in times of crisis, is missing the point.

2. The crisis hits some people harder than others. We need answers that address inequalities.

We are all worried about our loved ones and ourselves right now. We all feel uneasy and sometimes even afraid. After all, the pandemic has reached every corner of our world. However, it is also true that this crisis hits each of us differently. People who do not have a (safe) home, who live in poverty or have exploitative working conditions, as well as those who are chronically ill are worse impacted. Above all, older women and single mothers, who according to the United Nations are over represented among the poor and those at risk of poverty, are most severely affected by the current state of emergency.

A look at previous pandemics gives us an idea of what long-term the consequences of the crisis could mean for women in particular. Although all income fell as a result of Ebola in West Africa, “men’s incomes have returned to pre-epidemic levels more quickly than women’s,” health researcher Julia Smith told the New York Times. And even under normal circumstances women worldwide earn 23 per cent less than men, who in turn have 50 per cent more assets. This inequality is being exacerbated by the crisis.

Meanwhile more than 70 per cent of healthcare workers worldwide are women. Women also carry out more than 70 per cent of unpaid work worldwide, performing three times as much unpaid work as men. This responsibility is intensified by school closures and increased illness, which leads to a growing burden for carers - a burden for which political answers are often lacking.

This must change now. Unpaid, as well as underpaid, care and nursing work must be spread over different (and more male) shoulders. Instead of continuing to systematically devalue this work, it must be given the status it deserves and recognised globally for its role in social cohesion and propping up economies. If the answers are really to meet the challenges, women and local women’s rights organisations should not only sit at the table when decisions are made, but should also actively participate in building this table.

3. Fair pay is not a marginal issue.

Working from home, stocking up on supplies or washing your hands regularly? This is simply not possible for women farm workers, who are already paid less than men for the same work, often earn too little, live from hand to mouth and often have no access to (clean) water.

Dismissals and reduced working hours have become a particular threat to existence during the pandemic. The textile industry in Bangladesh, for example, shows that women in particular face an existential threat. The cancellation of orders by textile companies puts jobs and thus the livelihoods of garment workers, and women in particular, at risk.

Recognition and appreciation for essential professions and carers is important - but what is needed is adequate pay and safe working conditions for all workers – many of whom are now holding up our world – during the crisis, but above all in the long term.

4. Health and health care are not tradable commodities.

Especially for people who live in fragile states or in confined spaces, the risk of infection and serious or fatal illness is particularly high due to inadequate medical care. This is particularly evident in the Moria refugee camp, where a single toilet is sometimes used by over 150 people and where there is often no soap or the water supply is interrupted. The lack of (clean) water is also a bitter reality in other parts of the world. The equation is as simple as it is cruel: no clean water, no health.

Equal access to medicines, preventive protective measures or medical treatment must be ensured for all, and not only a select circle of wealthy people.

5. We can’t afford to lose sight of human rights, gender justice and environmental protection.

Even in times of COVID-19, politicians must not lose sight of their other responsibilities on human rights and environmental protection.

The answers to COVID-19 must not lose track of the Sustainable Development Goals. During the pandemic, the climate crisis has taken the back seat. Individual voices in politics and industry are already calling for existing environmental protection measures to be reversed for their own benefit. That would be a step in the wrong direction. The crisis requires sustainable answers. These also include strengthening global social and healthcare systems and gender-equitable social security systems that address specific risks for women.

Social and gender inequality is a core issue and has to be tackled now. Governments must not forget this in their political decisions to contain the virus. And if they do, we must stand together and remind them, wherever and whenever necessary.

This post is an translated and adapted version of the original, published on the Oxfam Germany website.

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