Conflict

UN Calls For Ceasefire In Syria Amidst Coronavirus Crisis

Syria

The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria has called for an immediate ceasefire in the country in order to limit the damaging effects of a coronavirus outbreak. 

The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Syria has called for an immediate ceasefire after the first cases of coronavirus were announced in the country. Committee Chair Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said the coronavirus epidemic poses a “deadly threat” to the Syrian population, and a ceasefire must be enforced in order to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.

Pinheiro urged warring parties to adhere to the calls of UN special envoy for Syria, Geir Pederson, to enable a concerted effort to confront the coronavirus pandemic. Pederson said in a statement last week that he has “real concerns” for the Syrian people who are acutely vulnerable to the virus.

The Syrian government announced its first case of coronavirus last week. Since then, more cases of those suffering from the virus have been confirmed. Schools, markets, public transport and places of worship have since been shut down.

The prospect of a deadly outbreak in a population devastated by nine years of war is very concerning to doctors and aid workers. Healthcare facilities in Syria have been either destroyed or degraded, and there is a significant shortage of specialised medical equipment and health professionals. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 70% of health workers have left Syria.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) has said that the northwest regions of Syria have an acute shortage of medical equipment and little in the way of preventative measures.  Syrians living in densely populated displacement camps are among the most vulnerable to the virus in the country. There are around a million internally displaced Syrians living in Idlib province.

WHO announced last week that it will be providing testing kits to those living in Idlib. However overcrowded refugee camps, a lack basic sanitation or nutrition and insufficient health facilities mean an outbreak would be near impossible to contain in these areas.

Recent ceasefire agreements have de-escalated fighting in northwest Syria. Turkey, which supports the opposition forces, and Russia, which supports Syrian regime forces, agreed on a ceasefire on March 5th to pause fighting in Idlib province. However, the truce remains fragile, and the threat of violence remains.