Our Rights at Risk in a Public Health Crisis

The year 2020 introduced the world to the “new normal” with COVID-19. Caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in one of the most deadly public health crises in history, infecting more than 124 million people worldwide and claiming more than 2 million lives. Additionally, the pandemic exposed societal inequities and the many human rights at risk during a public health crisis, including the rights to health, an adequate standard of living, social security, education, and more.

Our defenders’ stories are powerful not only because of their actions but also because of the challenging circumstances under which they lived, where their rights were at risk or abused. Our new lesson plan, “Our Rights at Risk in a Public Health Crisis,” highlights two modern human rights defenders who are speaking truth to power—Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization—and uses interactive activities to explore the human rights at risk and the role of government in a public health crisis.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1940,