In an international appeal issued on Monday March 23, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged warring parties across the world to observe a ceasefire to assist the battle against COVID-19, which he called ‘the common enemy that is now threatening all of humankind.’ (Click here for his video message).
The UN chief called on those in armed conflict to ‘pull back from hostilities, put aside mistrust and animosity‘, and “silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes”. This is crucial, he said, “to help create corridors for life-saving aid. To open precious windows for diplomacy. The ceasefire would allow humanitarians to reach populations that are most vulnerable to the spread of the corinavirus.‘
‘Let’s not forget that in war-ravaged countries, health systems have collapsed. Health professionals, already few in number, have often been targeted. Refugees and others displaced by violent conflict are doubly vulnerable.’
Mr Guterres noted that UN Special Envoys in conflict zones are following up on this appeal. ‘My special envoys will be now working with the parties to the conflict to try to make sure that this global appeal is not only listened to but leads to concrete action, leads to a pause in fighting, creating the conditions for the response to COVID‑19 to be much more effective.’
The UNSG noted that refugees from armed conflict are especially vulnerable to the spread of corona virus, and he appealed for additional fuding for the UNHCR (United Nations Refugee Agency) and the International Organization for Migration in order to prevent and mitigate the impact of corona virus in refugee camps.
The UN Secretary-General also used the occassion to criticise war itself – and compare to a disease inflicting human kind. It’s time to ‘End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world,’ he said. ‘It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now. That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.’
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