The coronavirus is spreading around the world. How can individuals, communities, humanitarian actors, local and national authorities best respond to defend the rights of all affected people?
Sphere and its partner standards can guide our response
In insecure situations with the risk of misinformation and stigma, it is important to understand and apply the most important and fundamental principles and actions to help limit the spread of the virus.
There are tools from the humanitarian sector that can directly support your COVID-19 response. The sector has gathered important knowledge and evidence regarding the response to epidemics, including the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014.
One of the most comprehensive tools is the Sphere Manual. Sphere and the Partnership for Humanitarian Standards (HSP) contain standards and guidelines that define the minimum response that all people affected by the crisis are entitled to expect. They establish what needs to be in place for affected populations to survive and recover with dignity. The Sphere standards are directly relevant to a public health emergency such as the COVID-19 pandemic, with the chapters on health and water, sanitation and hygiene promotion being the most important.
Equally important are the standards of our partners, including the Core Humanitarian Standard and the following standards that are part of the HSP: Cash Assistance, Inclusion of the Elderly and People with Disabilities,
Education in emergencies, child protection and markets and economic recovery.
Most importantly, beyond technical guidance, the standards provide guidance on human rights, information sharing and community engagement:
a. Information: People have the right to understand what is going on and to have confidence that the actions taken are in their own best interest and that of the community. People have the right to get clear, transparent and understandable information about the epidemic, the real danger and what is expected of them.
b. Dignity: People are human beings, not just cases. Respect for their human dignity is the basis of your answer. People who live with conditions associated with stigma or those who fear being stigmatized for having the coronavirus may need to hide the disease to avoid discrimination. It is therefore important to provide messages and supportive care.
vs. Community involvement. If you want to build trust, share information transparently, involve and directly include communities (including women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities and other often excluded groups), listen to them and understand perceptions, social norms and beliefs to prevent the spread of rumors and misinformation.
re. Don’t forget about other needs and others. Focusing on preventing the spread of the coronavirus should not make us overlook the other needs of those affected, nor the long-term needs of the population at large.
How to do it in a dignified and safe way for affected communities? The technical guide on the following pages shows you how. It includes links to the relevant sections of the different humanitarian standards.