Video message by Karen Abuzayd, Member of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, on the effects of COVID-19 in Syria:
“The first COVID-19 cases have now been reported from Syria.
For millions of Syrians the global pandemic threatens to unleash new facets of suffering on a population that has already endured unfathomable hardship, violations, and deprivations.
The health care system is acutely weakened after nearly nine years of war. Nurses and doctors have been attacked, detained or disappeared by all parties to the conflict, while pro-Government forces have systematically targeted medical facilities. 70% of all health workers have left the country.
More than 6.5 million people are internally displaced. 1.5 million civilians, mainly women and children, live out in the open or in overcrowded tents along the Syria-Turkey border in Idlib – with little access to clean water.
Thousands remain interned without access to medical care, including 70,000 women and children in the al-Hol camp.
Detainees were dying before this pandemic – due to torture, beatings, lack of medical care or inhuman conditions.
But now is not the time for hand-wringing.
Now is the time to:
Stop the fighting – all parties must commit to an immediate ceasefire and it must hold.
Let aid flow freely – without obstruction.
Stop using sanctions that hamper the crisis response.
Release all who are arbitrarily detained – along with children, the elderly, the disabled and the infirm.
The time to act is now, and we urge all actors in the Syrian conflict and the entire international community to do everything in their power to protect the most vulnerable from this scourge.”