COVID-19 SPECIAL: Myanmar, Colombia, Lebanon

A Myanmar woman wearing a traditional facial cosmetic is being checked for fever A Myanmar woman wearing a traditional facial cosmetic is being checked for fever © AFP/Ye Aung Thu


In Focus by Silvia Luminati; Editor: Sara Gorelli

 1.  Myanmar

On 6 April, Myanmar confirmed 22 COVID-19 cases but only a few hundred people have been tested due to the limited testing capacity of the national health system. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) expresses concern about the situation in western Myanmar, where clashes between Myanmar soldiers and rebels continued until a few days ago, when the Secretary-General’s call for ceasefire has been endorsed. The Rakhine conflict has displaced at least 100,000 people in 2019 and left over 700,000 people in need of humanitarian assistance. Myanmar’s government announced a plan to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading to the internally displaced persons’ (IDPs) camps, where physical distancing is not possible. Moreover, OCHA has denounced that the Rakhine State authorities have imposed restrictions and block on humanitarian aid which have left displaced communities, “especially vulnerable to a virus outbreak”, in need.


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2. Colombia

National Liberation Army (ELN) rebels have agreed to a month-long ceasefire due to the ongoing pandemic. In a statement released by the ELN group, the unilateral ceasefire has been called a “humanitarian gesture” for the Colombian people. The guerrillas' ceasefire and their willingness to revive suspended peace negotiations are the biggest steps taken since the armed conflict began. The Secretary-General has welcomed the announcement as it allows Colombian authorities to effectively address the epidemic and pay particular attention to the vulnerable groups in conflict-affected regions, such as the Pacific Region.


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3. Lebanon

The UN peacekeepers are assisting Lebanese authorities in the fight against the novel coronavirus by delivering equipment and other supplies. The UN Interim Force in Lebanon donated surgical masks and gloves to the Naqoura Municipality, which hosts the UN Mission’s headquarters. However, Human Rights Watch has expressed concern over the condition of 1.5 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon since 21 Lebanese municipalities have introduced curfews on refugees, as “part of their efforts to fight against the virus”. As the number of COVID-19 infections in the country is increasing, Syrians are raising concerns about their ability to access to health and medical care. 


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