Red Cross urges action on inequalities exposed by Covid

Aid group marks 150th anniversary with plan to plug the gaps and build resilient future

The Red Cross helping at a camp for displaced people. It says the pandemic has laid bare some truths in social and healthcare divisions. Ryan Carter for The National
The Red Cross helping at a camp for displaced people. It says the pandemic has laid bare some truths in social and healthcare divisions. Ryan Carter for The National

The head of the Red Cross charity is calling for lessons to be learnt from the pandemic to protect the most vulnerable in society.

Mike Adamson, chief executive of the Red Cross, said it was imperative that organisations “keep collaborating” to help address the truth exposed by the Covid-19 outbreak.

A report by the humanitarian group urging major changes to protect the most vulnerable revealed that three quarters of people in the UK support addressing underlying inequalities exposed by the pandemic.

Speaking at an online seminar hosted by think tank Demos on the future of humanitarian policies after the pandemic, Mr Adamson said the voices of people recovering from the pandemic “must be heard”.

“This has been one of the most significant incidents in our 150-year history,” he said.

“As the Red Cross we have years of experience of responding to disasters, it is our core purpose, but the sheer scale of the Covid-19 response has been hard on us all.”

Mr Adamson said people across the world were sheltering from “the same storm but in different boats”.

"The effects of Covid-19 have ripped through society and we need to reflect on the truths that have been exposed in the pandemic,” he said.

"As we recover in the UK we have a unique opportunity to work on a new vision. We must keep collaborating and making this our new normal.”

The report said the pandemic had laid bare many inequalities in the UK. It called for gaps in health and social care to be eliminated and for those most in need to be put first.

Former UK health secretary Patricia Hewitt said Covid-19 shone a spotlight on such gaps.

“One of the huge shocks over the last 14 months has been the revelation of the depth of inequalities,” she said.

“We have seen Covid-19 absolutely not affecting people in the same way. We have seen that nine out of 10 doctors who died were of black or Asian origin.

“We know the worst outbreaks have been in our poorest communities. These social, economic and racial inequalities … are not new, but Covid-19 shone a light on them and exacerbated them.”

This has been one of the most significant incidents in our 150-year history

Ms Hewitt said that the National Health Service could not address these problems alone.

“Regardless of the political party, we will find a commitment to tackling health inequality in the NHS,” she said.

“Despite the horrors, a lot of good things have happened. I think lessons are being learnt and quite a lot of change is happening.”

The Red Cross report recommends a welfare assistance scheme to help people in financial hardship, and calls for key humanitarian needs to be met in emergencies and for the provision of safe, legal routes for asylum seekers.

“As we look towards recovery, we are faced with a unique opportunity to learn and build towards a more resilient future, ensuring no one is left behind,” Mr Adamson said.

As part of the charity's anniversary, it compiled an essay collection called Communities of humanitarian thought: The case for change in a time of crisis.

On Wednesday, the UN's global report on food crises revealed that 155 million people were in “crisis or worse” in 55 countries in 2020 – a year-on-year increase of 20 million.

It said the increase in the number of people experiencing hunger was a result of the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus - in pictures

Updated: May 5, 2021 07:37 PM

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