Before Covid-19, many UK citizens may not have felt that human rights and the Global Goals for Sustainable Development were especially relevant to their daily lives.
The effects of coronavirus sweeping the globe, however, have impacted our lives so severely that many of the human rights we took for granted are now restricted. The combined effects of lockdown and Covid-19 also have a disproportionate impact on certain demographics, meaning that many people in our communities are far more vulnerable and at higher risk than others. Recent reports from Public Health England and University College London reveal that people from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups are two to three times more likely to die from Covid-19, and are dying disproportionately from the virus.
Though we may not initially recognise the effects of coronavirus on our lives as a human rights issue, lockdown and self-isolating has curtailed our right to freedom of movement to the extent that until very recently, only exercise and essential journeys for supplies were allowed under lockdown guidelines. Those in our communities who are forced to self-isolate entirely, due to underlying health conditions or age, have been left with no freedom of movement at all, having to stay within their own properties for weeks on end to protect themselves and their loved ones from the virus.
This lack of free movement then has a knock-on effect on other human rights we might have otherwise taken for granted. Access to healthcare has become increasingly difficult, with only essential appointments going ahead in person and most other enquiries now being taken over the phone. What used to be a simple process of picking up your prescription at your local pharmacy is now impossible for those with underlying health conditions, who in turn are more likely to suffer from a lack of access to vital medication.
Our mutual aid group, High Wycombe Mutual Aid, aims to make sure no one in our community is left isolated or without support. The three main services we offer are:
- Picking up your prescriptions
- Doing your shopping for you
- Having a regular chat on the phone
Though volunteers cannot restore someone’s freedom of movement for them under the current circumstances, they can support them through the lockdown by ensuring they are still able to secure the supplies they need.
Picking up prescriptions for someone who cannot get them in person ensures they can still access the healthcare they need, and delivering food shopping for a neighbour means they can eat well and maintain a degree of choice over what foods they would like.
Our third service of regular phone chats is no less important. Coronavirus has made the UK’s epidemic of loneliness even worse, isolating people from their friends and loved ones, and leaving those without these connections even more isolated. A regular phone call with someone alone can go a long way to stopping their well-being from plummeting, and gives them a friendly contact with whom they can share their experiences of lockdown.
Mutual Aid is not a charity per se, and we therefore refer people to pre-existing local food banks and health organisations if we cannot offer them the specific type of support they need. Our group is made up entirely of volunteers, most of whom have never met in person, who are using their time under lockdown to support their neighbours. Like thousands of other mutual aid organisations in the UK, our efforts are directed towards alleviating the effects of coronavirus lockdown, and consequently we are also, albeit often unwittingly, safeguarding our fellow citizens’ human rights.
For more information about High Wycombe Mutual Aid and to find out how to get involved in your area see:
Mutual aid groups are helping to achieve:
Written by Amy Gee, volunteer coordinator and communications lead for High Wycombe Mutual Aid.