Photo: Reuters

Red Cross warns of COVID impact on volatile Middle East

The Geneva-Headquartered International Committee of the Red Cross warns that multiple outbreaks of the corona contagion across the Middle East could shatter the lives of millions of already destitute people in the various conflict zones.

According to the Red Cross Director for the Near and Middle East Fabrizio, “unless the international community would focus on the socio-economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic across the volatile region – the situation could even deteriorate to unknown proportions.” He elaborated saying “The investment which is needed, the attention which is needed in this region, is not just today. It shouldn’t be just a health perspective, but it should be a socio-economic perspective and the most difficult part might be after the epidemic because on top of conflict, on top of the violence they will have to deal with the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic and it is really scary.”

Referring to Syria in particular, Fabrizio highlighted that over the course of the years-long’ conflict the Syrian health sector (including infrastructure and staff) has been “deliberately targeted” consequently weakening its current capacity to combat the spread of the corona disease. “Historically, I think the health sector paid a very high price to politicization of this conflict.”

While the consequences of the spreading pandemic do not project much hope for the future of Syria; fears of the coronavirus have seemingly bolstered the presiding cessation of hostilities in the country’s northwestern Idlib governorate. According to Turkish-backed Syrian militants that are stationed on the frontlines ahead of a probable resumption of violence; a coronavirus outbreak within the Syrian army has further enforced the regime’s compliance to the terms of the ceasefire arrangement. According to one such militant, Hassan Ismail, “Great countries were unable to combat the coronavirus, so imagine Assad’s regime whose economy has been affected for 10 years. If the coronavirus did not exist, the regime would have resumed its military operations over a month ago.” His unidentified fellow combatant said “This is the first time we see the regime being committed to the truce by 90 percent because of the number of his soldiers that were affected by corona. Things are calm as you saw. However, TV7 was able to corroborate several violations of the ceasefire by the opposing warring-parties over the past several weeks.

Nevertheless, it is evident that the outbreak of the corona contagion in both camps has significantly diminished their will their will to fight.

It is relevant to note that the People’s Republic of China has transferred significant amounts of aid to many countries across the Middle East in recent days, including Lebanon and Syria, as part of Beijing’s declared effort to assist the disease stricken-countries.