The United Nations has said it will celebrate this year’s International Day of Disabled Persons, 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 a VOSAP Art from the Heart Contest 2020 participation award for her four portraits of Dr. Kalbiye Yalaz who established the first pediatric neurology department at Hacettepe Hospital in Ankara, Turkey.
Persons with disabilities in the world are among the hardest hit by COVID-19 according to the UN. These people with physical, psychosocial, and cognitive disabilities include an estimated 46% of 60 years and over; one in every five women; and one in every ten children who have:
“Learning How to Fall” and “All is Blue for A Time” by Renan Kaleli
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 hardest the U.S., India, and Brazil that make up 50% of the World’s 67 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. And 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.
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 assistive technology due to lack of awareness and high cost. Digital artist, Cilem Bulut featured in Art Edition 3 – Climate Week[ii] is one of the lucky ones, as she makes her paintings with a computer. Yet the 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.[iii]
"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 the 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, non-governmental organizations and humanitarian agencies that assist refugees, placing them at a greater risk of COVID-19 infection as well as higher mortality rates.[iv] 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 United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR).[v]
“Refugees” and “Homeless Boy” by Fatma Kadir[vi]
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 exposing the economic divide in COVID-19 testing which has disproportionately burdened women with unpaid child and elderly care.[vii]
According to a 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 total job losses from the pandemic. That’s left them 1.8 times more vulnerable to the pandemic’s impact than men.
“Hope for a Girl and a Boy” by Semine Hazar
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.[viii]
“Blurring Lines to Save Lives”[ix] and “Roses of Unity” by Selva Ozelli
Selva Ozelli Art in the Time of Corona: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ty3K1OnC9ec
Selva Ozelli Art in the Time of Corona 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sniDQ-6-0Ig
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.:
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.
The first-ever climate-related case at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), against governments in 33 European countries that have not done enough to prevent the impacts of climate change from violating their citizens’ human rights got approval to move forward with priority status in a landmark decision on Nov. 30, 2020.[x] In Australia a 25-year-old Mark McVeigh who in a David-versus-Goliath case sued his A$57 bn ($42 bn) pension fund over climate change has settled out of court in a case widely seen as a wake-up call for trustees and company directors.[xi]
Finally, artists featured London Climate Action Week: 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.[xii]
“Magical Forest” by Mehmet Kuran