Channel 1 Los Angeles
“We need the kind of sustained period of calm that a nationwide ceasefire would ensure because we need cooperation to take place across the front-lines that riddle Syria’s territory – and this is needed not tomorrow, but now”, Geir Pedersen said in a videoconference with Security Council members.
Years of conflict have degraded or destroyed the healthcare system, the UN envoy pointed out, stressing that that the virus does not care if you live in government-controlled areas or outside; “it endangers all Syrians”.
Given large scale population movements, dangerously cramped conditions in multiple camps for the internally displaced, informal settlements, and places of detention, he voiced concern that “Syria is at high risk of being unable to contain the pandemic”.
Moreover, weak or absent governance, a hollowed-out health system, and shortages of health professionals, medical equipment and supplies, only add to the crisis.
Working towards peace
Noting that agreements in the northeast broadly continued to hold, the UN envoy maintained that the current arrangements are far from ideal for the front-line response demanded by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Mr. Pedersen expressed his readiness to work with the Syrian Government, the opposition, all relevant players on the ground, and key countries with influence, to support a scaling-up of action in a bid to ensure the ceasefire holds.
“It will not be easy, and there are no guarantees”, he said, “but the Syrian people desperately need everyone to focus on their welfare now”.
He closed with the hope that if key players engage with UN appeals, everyone can “work urgently in a common effort”.
“This, in turn, would definitely help in the effort on the political track to implement Security Council resolution 2254”, which calls for a ceasefire and political settlement in Syria”.
“I am convinced this is the only way forward”, he concluded.
‘Tip of the iceberg’
Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock told Security Council members that as of Monday morning, ten cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in Syria, including one death.