COVID-19 SPECIAL: Libya, Syria

Children and an elderly woman wear facemasks in Idlib, Syria Children and an elderly woman wear facemasks in Idlib, Syria © Muhammed Said/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

 In Focus by Silvia Luminati

1.  Libya

Since the last update, the COVID-19 pandemic still poses a significant threat to civilians amid the continuation of  hostilities and the escalation of violence in recent weeks, hindering the delivery of humanitarian supplies to war-torn communities and further impeding Libya’s efforts to fight the pandemic. Human Rights Watch reported at least 15 attacks against eight healthcare facilities injuring 17 health care workers since the beginning of 2020. While the Coronavirus has affected different parts of the country and 64 positive cases were reported, on 29 April a spokesperson of general Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) offered a truce during the holy month of Ramadan which has been rejected by  the country’s internationally recognised government, stating  that it would continue invoking  “legitimate self-defence”.

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2. Syria

The United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, called the ongoing situation in Syria “a ticking time-bomb that must not be ignored” as violence continues unabated in the country despite the pandemic. Infact, since the beginning of March, residential neighbourhoods have been targeted and the number of civilians killed by improvised explosive devices increased month after month.  In addition, the Special Envoy for Syria reiterated the call for a “complete and immediate” ceasefire and urged both the government and the de-facto authorities to allow a full humanitarian access to help the most vulnerable communities. Despite confirmed caseloads have been relatively low to date (58), he also warned about the risk of a major outbreak in the country since Syria lacks health professionals, medical equipment and supplies.

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