An immediate nationwide ceasefire is needed across Syria to enable an “all-out-effort” to stamp out the coronavirus and prevent it from ravaging a beleaguered population, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Tuesday.
Prisoners and millions of displaced people, especially those in rebel-held Idlib in the northwest, are especially vulnerable after nine years of war, they said.
Syrians are “acutely vulnerable to COVID-19,” Geir Pedersen, the U.N. special envoy for Syria, said in a statement, and he appealed on humanitarian grounds for “large-scale releases of detainees and abductees.”
Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC regional director for the Near and Middle East, echoed the call for a ceasefire.
“Because to some extent we can’t fight two battles at the same time,” Carboni said in an interview with Reuters. “We can’t dedicate time and energy to what the pandemic response requires and at the same time be addressing the emergency needs of people recently displaced or destitute.”
He also noted the difficulties of putting in place general health guidance for containing the spread of the coronavirus. “The way to address the pandemic is to stay home,” Carboni said. “But when you are an IDP (internally displaced person), you don’t have a home. How do you do that? Certainly social distancing becomes a luxury.”