The UN rights chief said Tuesday the coronavirus pandemic’s disproportionate impact on ethnic minorities in the US and protests triggered by George Floyd’s death had laid bare “endemic inequalities” that must be addressed.
Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, raised the situation in the United States and a range of countries, saying data shows the COVID-19 crisis has had a worse impact on racial and ethnic minorities.
“This virus is exposing endemic inequalities that have too long been ignored,” she said in a statement.
Similar inequalities were also fuelling the widespread protests in hundreds of US cities over the police killing in Minneapolis last week of Floyd, an unarmed black man.
“In the United States, protests triggered by the killing of George Floyd are highlighting not only police violence against people of colour, but also inequalities in health, education, employment and endemic racial discrimination,” Bachelet said.
She noted the virus death rate for African Americans is reported to be more than double that of other racial groups in the United States.
Her statement also highlighted the situation in Britain, where government data for England and Wales shows a death rate for blacks, ethnic Pakistanis and Bangladeshis that is nearly double that of whites.
And she pointed to Brazil, where people of colour in Sao Paulo are 62 percent more likely to die from the virus than whites, and in France’s heavily minority-inhabited Seine Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, which has reported higher excess mortality than other areas.
‘Urgent steps needed’
“The appalling impact of COVID-19 on racial and ethnic minorities is much discussed, but what is less clear is how much is being done to address it,” Bachelet said.
“Urgent steps need to be taken by states, such as prioritising health monitoring and testing, increasing access to healthcare, and providing targeted information for these communities.”
She said the disparities likely resulted from a range of factors linked to marginalisation, discrimination and access to healthcare, along with economic inequalities, overcrowded housing and environmental risks.
“People from racial and ethnic minorities are also found in higher numbers in some jobs that carry increased risk, including in the transport, health and cleaning sectors,” the statement said.
Bachelet stressed that such factors were likely playing a devastating role in many countries, but lamented that a vast majority of states do not disaggregate data by ethnicity, making it difficult to get to the root of the problem.
“Collection, disaggregation and analysis of data by ethnicity or race, as well as gender, are essential to identify and address inequalities and structural discrimination that contribute to poor health outcomes, including for COVID-19.
“The fight against this pandemic cannot be won if governments refuse to acknowledge the blatant inequalities that the virus is bringing to the fore,” Bachelet warned.