While many people around the world are relying on soap, water and antibacterial hand gel to prevent the transmission of COVID-19 (the coronavirus), Angelina does not have that luxury. Her family and one other family had their access to water and sewerage services cut off by authorities in their village in Mexico on 14 January 2019. Today, they still have no access to these services. All in an attempt to force them to renounce their Protestant Christian beliefs.
Religious minorities made even more vulnerable
Cutting off basic services, including water and electricity, is one of the most common ways in which individuals or communities in Mexico are harassed because of their religious beliefs.
Authorities cut off water and sewage services to two Protestant Christian families in La Mesa Limantitla, Hidalgo state, when they requested that they be excused from required financial contributions and community work linked to the celebration of Roman Catholic festivals and activities.
They are no longer recognised as members of the community and now must walk a kilometre to access water. As the outbreak of COVID-19 is classed a global pandemic - and with many nations in lockdown to prevent spread of the disease - Angelina and her family have become even more vulnerable.
Singled out for harsh treatment
In addition to being deprived of basic services such as water, electricity, sewerage services and education, women from religious minority communities can be singled out for especially harsh treatment.
For Angelina, this meant being stripped of her position as the community representative for a government wellbeing programme (‘Bienestar’). She was ostracised and left without support, after the local authorities threatened community members that if anyone visited her during her recovery from a hysterectomy, they would also have their access to basic services cut off.
Angelina told CSW that as a result no one visited her or offered support after her operation. Angelina’s daughter-in-law, who was living with her as her carer following surgery, was forced to return to her own home in the community because she is pregnant and could not manage any longer without access to water and sewerage services, leaving Angelina isolated and alone.
The spread of coronavirus puts Angelina at greater risk.
Denying access to water creates problems for those who are targeted directly as well as those who care for people who are unwell, and can lead to serious health issues. The coronavirus pandemic is a huge concern for many, but puts those without access to basic sanitation at even greater risk.
It is likely that these two families will remain without access to water for some time to come, as state government officials rarely intervene to restore access to water, despite water being a public service; and the denial of basic services can continue for years. Those responsible for cutting off the services are rarely held to account for their actions, and as a result victims remain vulnerable.
Medical professionals repeat the message daily: keeping your hands clean is one of the easiest and best ways to prevent transmission of the coronavirus. But for Angelina and many others from religious minority communities in Mexico, maintaining good hygiene will be next to impossible.
We’re working with local partners to lobby the authorities to restore water and sewerage access to Angelina and the others. Please pray that our advocacy will be successful.