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  • Africa Advocacy Foundation

While the House of Commons debates, the One Voice Network launches

Updated: Sep 25, 2020

At OVN, we know that the needs of the Black communities in the UK have been unacknowledged and ignored for too long. As we listened to the House of Commons debate on COVID-19 and BAME communities, what we heard resonated with us.

We heard Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi MP rebuke the inequalities impacting BAME communities: “The evidence tells us what we already knew: ethnic inequalities in health and wellbeing in the UK existed before COVID-19, and the pandemic has made these disparities more apparent and undoubtedly exacerbated them. Why is this? One major reason is racism…”

We heard Maria Miller MP critique the data collected: “It did not include a breakdown of individual occupations, it did not look at comorbidities, and it treated people from the BAME community as if they were one homogenous group…”

We heard Dawn Butler MP, the sponsor of the debate, admonish: “’I can’t breathe’, the last words of George Floyd, could apply to the disproportionate numbers of black, African-Caribbean and Asian people dying from coronavirus in this country. … We did not get to this point by accident, and we must make a concerted effort to dismantle the structural and systemic racism that exists in society, and that affects life chances from the moment someone is born. … Covid-10 does not prefer one person’s lungs to those of other ethnicities. It is not the pandemic that discriminates – it is society.”

Finally, we heard the call for action from the Shadow Minister for Science, Research and Digital, Chi Onwurah MP: “Covid-19 has shone a light on the discrimination that so many black and minority ethnic people suffer in this country. The Government need to act to change that and ensure that it does not continue, as it has for so many years.”

The Government’s response, provided by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jo Churchill MP, acknowledged that more needs to be done to address the injustice of ethnic health disparities. She highlighted the establishment of the new Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities as pivotal in driving this agenda forward.

We are heartened to hear our political leaders and more than 40 MPs acknowledge what we at OVN have long since known to be true within our communities, and we are cautiously hopeful that the new Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities can be utilised to advance the health outcomes for all of our BAME communities. We know that these inequalities have impacted our Black communities for too long. We also know our BAME communities are richly diverse and solutions and resources need to be tailored to best suit the needs of each. We will be working closely with parliamentarians to support them in efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of our communities.

At OVN, we look forward to partnering with anyone working hard to improve the lives and health outcomes of our Black communities, especially those impacted by HIV/AIDS. It’s up to all of us to act to ensure that our Black communities are not, in the words of Onwurah, “in the same situation in a year, five years or 10 years.”

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