Will the World Cup in Qatar be good for your health?

The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, which begins on November 20, was hailed by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as a “unique opportunity to show how sport can promote health”. The WHO, Qatar Ministry of Health, FIFA and the Organizing Committee hope to create a “Legacy for Sport and Health” aimed at protecting the health of all involved, promoting healthy lifestyles and promoting health at future mass events . But will this World Cup really be good for your health?

The evidence is not promising. International sporting events provide an opportunity for unity and the promotion of the health benefits of physical activity, but promises of legacy often go unfulfilled. An evidence-based review published in The lancet in 2021 showed that the Olympics have not improved physical activity among the population and are often a missed public health opportunity. High profile sponsors of this World Cup include Budweiser, McDonalds and Coca Cola – companies driven to capitalize on unhealthy lifestyles – as well as big carbon polluters.

The event was shrouded in concern over human rights abuses in Qatar. Qatar’s economy relies on migrant workers – an estimated 2.2 million of Qatar’s 2.9 million people and 95% of the workforce are migrant workers, many of them from South and Southeast Asia working in construction. Qatar uses a sponsorship system, called kafalah, which binds the legal status of migrant workers to their employer. Despite reforms such as allowing workers to change jobs and a minimum wage in 2020, workers continue to be exploited and excluded from the country’s other labor laws. Workers have described overcrowded housing, inadequate nutrition and carelessness about occupational hazards. Access to healthcare depends on employers, and only 7% of Qatar’s population is believed to be covered by at least one social protection benefit. The Qatari government’s disregard for migrant workers’ right to health violates international standards and ignores the serious consequences for migrant workers’ health and national and global sustainable development.

Another important concern of the event is the rights of LGBTQ+ people. Same-sex sexual activity is criminalized in Qatar; It also runs Sharia courts, where Muslim men who engage in same-sex intimacy can be sentenced to death. Campaigns for LGBTQ+ rights are not allowed, and people cannot legally change gender. Comments by Khalid Salman, Qatar’s World Cup ambassador, calling homosexuality “damage to the mind” addresses the stigma within the country and continues long-standing discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in football. Although there have been reassurances about the safety of LGBTQ+ visitors, asking LGBTQ+ people to respect Qatari law by hiding who they are compromises global equality efforts for that community.

There is a heated debate about how footballers, pundits and fans should deal with these issues. Some might suggest focusing on football. But if the World Cup really wants to ensure a health legacy, one way is to speak out against such injustices and use the event as a platform to call for change. Same-sex sexual activity is criminalized in 69 countries worldwide, including 32 out of 54 African countries. The criminalization of such activities must be abolished as they have devastating health consequences and perpetuate societal homophobia and transphobia. Migrant workers are often discriminated against around the world and excluded from health services. In 2019 there were 169 million international migrant workers; Two-thirds of migrant workers are in high-income countries, often from low- and middle-income countries. The UCLlancet The Commission on Migration and Health sets out the valuable contribution that migrant workers make to the global economy and how this often comes at the expense of their health. Common barriers to accessing health care include deprivation of health entitlements, language barriers and fear of deportation. The exclusion of migrant workers and LGBTQ+ people from many healthcare systems is slowing progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Human rights abuses against LGBTQ+ people and migrant workers are global health issues, not just Qatari ones. The health legacy of the 2022 World Cup is yet to be shaped. Last but not least, the World Cup is an opportunity to reflect on social responsibility and for sports organisations, global health institutions, medical journals and all associations planning global events to reflect on the countries they work with and to question the impact on health. It’s not just about what’s happening on the pitch.

#World #Cup #Qatar #good #health

Add Comment