We know that Covid-19 has the potential to negatively affect everyone on earth, but it will not affect everyone equally. The need to isolate, to retain a livelihood, to access healthcare and withstand the economic shock of lost income, coupled with sharp inflationary prices, are all likely to affect the poor far more severely than the rich. When people face significantly limited options in their normal circumstances – because they are poor, discriminated against, marginalised, and largely unprotected by national laws – Covid-19 is likely to cause a significant deterioration in their health and chances of survival. It is people with these limited options who are so commonly exploited in modern slavery.
Anti-Slavery International has worked for 180 years with the world’s most vulnerable people to ensure that we see a final end to modern slavery, and realise freedom from slavery for everyone, everywhere, always. Over the past few weeks, our conversations with grassroots partners in the UK and overseas have highlighted the negative impact, not just of the virus itself, but how governments and global businesses are responding to the virus threat. These include instant cancellations of manufacturing contracts without commitment to securing the health and welfare of already low-paid workers; government lockdowns which effectively limit access to cash benefits that families need to put food on the table to survive and; people without the luxury to self isolate or social distance. The list goes on.
To seriously tackle the global Covid-19 pandemic, and its effects, governments, businesses, donors and international agencies must be proactive in reaching and supporting the world’s most vulnerable and most marginalised people. A response that meets short term needs it important, but a long term change is required to ensure the sustainability of those short term measures, while safeguarding millions from the threat of exploitation.
Since the beginning of this crisis Anti-Slavery International have been working with partners, donors and civil socity around the world to collect data on the effects of Covid-19 on vulnerable communities. From this data Anti-Slavery International has published Leaving No-one Behind; insights and recommendations for governments, donors, businesses and international agencies to help with the global response to Covid-19, with the intention to ensure that these short and long term measures will reach the 40 million people in modern slavery.