These are uncertain times.
As the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic, we at Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) truly understand the very real ways this has already affected your families and communities. We urge you to take the necessary measures – as instructed by public health experts – to stay healthy and safe at this time.
We have watched over these past weeks as our friends and colleagues around the world have combatted COVID-19 both in their clinics, communities, and cities. And now, we’re seeing fear about the virus set in around us, misinformation spread, and deep anxiety take hold. Governments on the state and national level failed to respond quickly, and people are frustrated with the lack of transparency offered from policymakers. In addition to the disruption of daily life and concern about our own well-being, many of us fear for friends and loved ones who we already know are susceptible to the virus.
In times like this, we turn to the experts: doctors, nurses, public health specialists, and the wide range of medical professionals whom we trust. We all want answers. We want guidance on how to keep ourselves and our families safe. But mostly, we want to understand how to combat COVID-19: to beat it together, and to beat it quickly.
PHR puts its full faith in the rigorous analysis and guidance continually being offered by medical professionals around the world. Physicians were the first to sound the alarm about the gravity of COVID-19, and refused to stay silent about its danger, even when their own governments ignored the evidence. Some even sacrificed their own lives in the pursuit of caring for their patients.
PHR and our community of health professionals are reflecting and responding to what lies ahead. Here’s what we know:
- Health professionals are on the front lines of this fight. Now more than ever, governments must heed the sound guidance and recommendations from public health specialists; they are our true north, and politics should never get in the way of ensuring the health or safety of our communities. By listening to their analysis, amplifying their voices, and acting on their recommendations, we know we will beat this, and be better prepared for the future. PHR and our network of experts will be there to make demands of politicians and world leaders to help resource them and protect all of us during this time.
- Migrants who have been detained in U.S. immigration custody are at risk and need immediate protection. The migrants who are being held in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention are living together in confined settings, completely unable to “self-quarantine” or to exercise the “social distancing” advised by health authorities. They face extremely high risks from a worsening COVID-19 outbreak. We are also working to identify the barriers to health care that undocumented communities face amid the Trump administration’s restrictive immigration policies and practices. These individuals also need adequate care; and we know when any large population fears accessing health care during an epidemic, the resulting consequences can be grave.
- Access to health care is a human right – and we will be vigilant in our efforts to hold anyone accountable who willfully denies access or care or resources to those in need. Even in times of crisis, everyone has the right to adequate medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, or disability. PHR is proud to stand with the dedicated health professionals working around the clock to care for those in need.
Know that we will continue working tirelessly with our experts and networks of health professionals who are on the front lines of this crisis. Stay tuned to PHR for more on how you can join us to support science-driven solutions to protect the most vulnerable and stand with the brave health care workers who are putting themselves in danger as we work together to end this pandemic.
Donna McKay, PHR Executive Director
Michele Heisler, MD, MPA, PHR Medical Director