• February 8, 2023

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How has COVID-19 shed light on the flaws of institutional care? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Emina Ćerimović, senior researcher on disability rights at Human Rights Watch, on Quora:

It was no surprise when only a few months into the pandemic, evidence from around the world indicated that COVID-19 spread more rapidly among people living in closed settings, especially nursing homes and other long-term facilities, where they are at a higher risk from infections, complication, and death. Such reports have emerged from Britain, France, Italy, Russia, and many other places. In the U.S. alone, more than 200,000 people living and working in institutions have died of COVID-19, which is nearly one-third of all deaths.

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Prior to the pandemic, I’ve visited more than 50 institutions across the world, including in Croatia, Brazil, Lebanon, Nigeria, and Serbia. Overcrowding, lack of access to proper hygiene, neglect, and abuse were rampant. In Nigeria, I found men, women, and children laying on dirty floors or bare beds, in ragged clothes or naked, a plastic bucket left for them to urinate and defecate in, and an iron chain fastened to their ankles.

In Serbia, I have visited numerous institutions for people with disabilities. Some people with disabilities with high support and medical needs were confined to crowded wards that they rarely left, even to get fresh air. I saw up to 17 children and adults with disabilities living together in one room, where they spent most of their days and nights. They often had to share clothes. These institutions lacked independent and periodic monitoring to ensure that children and adults with disabilities who live in them are protected against abuse and neglect. We published these findings and other serious concerns, including neglect and inappropriate medication, in a 2016 report.

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided only further evidence of the many risks that institutional life poses and governments should take concrete steps to move people with disabilities and older people out of institutions and into the community. For this to happen, governments should provide children and adults with disabilities with social support and services to be able to live in the community.

This question originally appeared on Quora – the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

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