Europe Must Ensure Marginalised Communities Have Access to Water During Pandemic

16 March 2020

Brussels, 16 March 2020: The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) is calling on governments across Europe to ensure that marginalised communities, including Roma, have full access to clean water as part of national responses to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to ERRC research, a majority of Romani people in Europe do not enjoy access to mains-supplied water, and more than half rely on a water source which is more than 150m away, making them especially vulnerable to the spread of this virus. 

The ERRC urges European leaders to follow the example set by Slovak authorities, who announced on 16th March that they are recommending allowing unlimited access to drinking water for people living in marginalised communities. It is imperative that marginalised people in society are not left out of policies which are being implemented now to contain the spread of the virus. The ERRC will be reaching out to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and requesting them to press European leaders to ensure equal welfare for all citizens, regardless of ethnicity, in the midst of this pandemic.

Hand-washing, which is the main preventative measure recommended by the WHO to slow the spread of the virus, requires that people have access to clean water. This virus does not discriminate between non-Roma and Roma. In order to preserve the health of societies, measures must be taken to ensure the welfare of all citizens is taken into account in emergency responses to contain the pandemic.

We further urge authorities to consider the welfare of marginalised Roma communities when other actions, such as the closure of schools, are taken. Schools are not only places of learning, for many Romani children their only meal of the day comes in the form of their school lunch. Additionally schools provide access to computers and the internet for many Romani families, without which they are unable to easily receive vital public health information. We urgently request that authorities take measures to ensure that Romani children are not left hungry when school closures are deemed necessary, and that marginalised Roma are given access to public health advice from medical experts.

The European Roma Rights Centre will endeavour to provide information to Romani communities who are most at risk about this pandemic as it evolves. We will additionally be monitoring the implementation of access to water measures by the Slovak government, and will reach out to the authorities in countries with large numbers of at-risk, marginalised communities to urge them to include these groups in any emergency measures they take.

For more information, or to arrange an interview contact:

Jonathan Lee
Advocacy & Communications Manager
European Roma Rights Centre
+36 30 500 2118 


This action was funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme (2014-2020).

The content of this post represents the views of the author only and is his/her sole responsibility. The European Commission does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains




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