Celebrating Global Unity for a COVID-19 Recovery with Paintings

The United Nations celebrated this year’s International Day of Disabled Persons on December 3 with the theme “Building Back Better Towards a Disability- Inclusive Accessible and Sustainable, Post-COVID-19” for the one billion or 15% of the world population with disabilities. Artist Selva Ozelli received an VOSAP Art from the Heart Contest 2020 participation award for her portraits of Dr. Kalbiye Yalaz which were featured in Times of Corona Art Edition 2 profile. [1]

Persons with disabilities in the world have been among the hardest hit by COVID-19 pandemic, according to the UN.  These people with physical, psychosocial, and cognitive disabilities include an estimated 46% of 60 years and over age group; one in every five women; and one in every ten children who have:

  • Limited mobility or cannot avoid coming into close contact with others who may be infected;
  • Trouble understanding information or practicing preventive measures; or
  • Difficulty communicating symptoms of illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [2]

The UN says that Human Rights – which is celebrated globally on December 10th – must be at the center of the COVID-19 recovery efforts which hit the U.S., India and Brazil the hardest, that make up 50% of the world’s 59 million Covid-19 cases according to John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. The pandemic shed light on the deepening poverty, rising inequalities, structural and entrenched discrimination and other gaps in human rights protection. This has necessitated measures to be implemented to close these gaps, advance human rights, to build back a post COVID-19 reality that is better, more resilient, just, and sustainable. 

Ending discrimination

Structural discrimination and racism have fueled the COVID-19 crisis. For example, the U.S. government’s decision to ease the Care Act has been one of the most blatant affronts on disabled people’s rights who have poor accessibility to communications from the government, food, shelter, medicines, hospitals, transportation and assistive technology. Only 1 out of 10 — or 100 million — disabled persons in the world have access to the assistive technology due to lack of awareness and high cost.  Digital artist Cilem Bulut featured in Art Edition 3 – Climate Week [3]  is one of the lucky ones, as she makes her paintings with a computer.  Yet, the Indian State of Telangana believes that more needs to be done to lay foundations for a robust Assisted Technology-Ecosystem in India. Therefore, it is holding its first-ever Assistive Technology Summit on International Disability Day this year.[4]

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown a spotlight on racial and ethnic disparities in health care that have been happening for years,” explained Dr. Fatima Rodriguez, an Assistant Professor of cardiovascular medicine at Stanford University in California. Black, Hispanic, and Native American people in the U.S. are approximately four times more likely to be hospitalized for Coronavirus infections when compared to others, according to Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  And more than 50% are likely to die after hospitalization, according to Dr. Rodriguez’s study published by Circulation.

According to a study by World Health Organization, refugees are also vulnerable to COVID-19 as they live in shelters that disproportionately increase their risk of contagion.  The pandemic has strained the finances of governments, nongovernmental organizations and humanitarian agencies that assist refugees, placing them at a greater risk of COVID-19 infection as well as higher mortality rates. [5]  Another layer of discrimination applies to people with disabilities who need to be placed in public shelters due to the pandemic as they may not  even be admitted on the grounds that the shelter cannot manage their disability—particularly those with cognitive impairments or mental health issues according to a study published by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).[6]

Addressing inequalities

The socio economic divides have worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The lines for free COVID-19 tests stretch for blocks and hours in American cities where people feel the dual strain of the virus surge.  Some are turning to one of an increasing number of pop-up clinics that promise visitors instant results at a cost of $150, further exposing the economic divide in COVID-19 testing which has disproportionately burdened women with unpaid child and elderly care. [8] 

According to the report COVID-19 and gender equality: Countering the regressive effects, from McKinsey Global Institute, women make up almost two-fifths of the global labor force but have suffered more than half of the total job losses from the pandemic. That has left them 1.8 times more vulnerable to the pandemic’s impact than men.

 Encouraging participation and solidarity

Building a post-COVID world can be accomplished by the collaborative efforts of frontline healthcare professionals, governments, civil society and  grass-roots communities as well as the private sector and by strictly adhering to lockdowns, mass COVID-19 testing, and contract tracing, according to a report published by the UNDRR. [9]

Promoting sustainable development

Human rights, the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement are the cornerstone of a post-COVID recovery that leaves no one behind. In hopeful announcements from the U.S.:

  • The newly elected president Joe Biden announced that the U.S. will be rejoining the Paris Agreement and appointed the former Obama-era Secretary of State, John Kerry , who helped to orchestrate the 2015 Paris climate accord, as the special presidential envoy for climate change;
  • The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory disclosed that they found a safe way to track the spread of COVID-19 and other contagious diseases from one cell to another in the human body; 
  • A vaccine against COVID-19 by Pfizer and BioNTech is 95% effective and has been approved for emergency use in the United Kingdom;
  • A vaccine by Moderna Pharmaceutical is 95% effective.

More hopeful news came from the leaders of the world’s most powerful nations, who pledged to protect lives and to ensure affordable access to COVID-19 vaccines for all during the recent Group of 20 summit.  Finally, artists featured in the London Climate Action Week as well as in Art Editions 1 [11], 2  and 3: Serife Akkan, Semine Hazar, Fatma Kadir and Selva Ozelli’s paintings and art shows, which capture the UN’s Global Goals and inspire others to take positive action, were selected for exhibition at the United Nations Global Goals Competition. [12] 

“Magical Forest” by Mehmet Kuran

[1] https://www.timesofcorona.com/index.php/2020/08/21/art-edition-2-day-1-selva-ozelli/

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/people-with-disabilities.html

[3] https://www.timesofcorona.com/index.php/events/

[4] https://www.thehansindia.com/telangana/telanganas-first-ever-assistive-technology-summit-on-international-day-for-disabled-persons-3rd-december-2020-656738?infinitescroll=1

[5] https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/98/8/20-271080/en/

[6] https://www.preventionweb.net/news/view/74831?&a=email&utm_source=pw_email

[7] Selected by the United Nations Global Goals Competition.

[8] https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/09/covid-19-gender-inequality-jobs-economy/

[9] https://www.preventionweb.net/news/view/74829?&a=email&utm_source=pw_email

[10] Selected for the United Nations COVID-19 Briefs and National Human Rights Art Competition, DC, USA.

[11] https://www.timesofcorona.com/index.php/2020/08/21/art-edition-1/

[12] Selected by the United Nations Global Goals Competition.

To share your Covid-19 experience or to publish your articles, stories, poems and artwork, write to us (in বাংলা or English) at timesofcorona@gmail.com or use our submission form.

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