As coronavirus spreads throughout the Middle East and lockdowns begin, aid groups are struggling to reach people in conflict zones. The Norwegian Refugee Council said on Wednesday that coronavirus shutdowns prevented the agency from reaching 300,000 people in need in Syria, Yemen, and the Gaza Strip.
Countries across the region have imposed sweeping efforts to combat the spread of coronavirus. The UN has called for a world-wide truce to focus on the pandemic, but in some areas, fighting continues.
Syria has reported five confirmed cases of coronavirus as of Wednesday night. Aid groups are trying to reach people in refugee camps in northwest Syria, where government forces and Turkish-backed rebels have been fighting, although a ceasefire brokered by Russia earlier in March has been holding relatively well.
Besides fighting in the northwest, Syria is under heavy US and EU sanctions, which has a direct impact on medical facilities in government-controlled areas and can exacerbate a coronavirus outbreak, similar to the situation in Iran. Syria enacted a curfew that started at 6 pm on Wednesday night.
The Gaza Strip reported seven new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, bringing the total to nine. Gaza’s medical infrastructure is virtually non-existent due to the Israeli blockade, and the enclave is so densely populated many fear a coronavirus outbreak will spread rapidly. In the West Bank, there are 60 confirmed cases, and the Palestinian Authority ordered a complete lockdown.
Coronavirus has entered war-torn Libya, which reported its first case on Wednesday. Authorities tracked down and quarantined anyone who came in contact with Libya’s first confirmed case. The city of Benghazi enacted a two-week lockdown. As the UN calls for a truce in Libya to deal with coronavirus, Gen. Khalifa Hafter continues his effort to take the capital Tripoli from the UN-backed Government of National Accord.
Although no cases have been reported in Yemen, the World Health Organization has warned of an impending “explosion” of cases in the country due to its shattered medical infrastructure, a result of the five-year US-Saudi war against the Houthis. Preventative measures like hand–washing is a luxury most Yemenis cannot afford since 18 million Yemenis do not have access to clean water.
Iran is still dealing with the worst outbreak in the region, one of the worst in the world. The Islamic Republic has over 27,000 confirmed cases, with a death toll of at least 2,077. Iranian authorities have urged people to stay home, but have not enacted strict curfews or lockdowns seen in other countries in the region. There has been an international outcry from people inside Iran, the US, and other countries for the Trump administration to lift the inhumane sanctions on Iran.
Afghanistan imposed a lockdown in its western Herat province, which borders Iran. So far, Afghanistan has 76 confirmed cases and two deaths. Four NATO coalition service members have tested positive in Kabul. Although the US recently signed a peace deal with the Taliban, fighting continues.
3 thoughts on “Mideast Coronavirus Lockdowns Block Humanitarian Aid”
Indigenous resistance is not going to stop over a cold. Especially since everyone figures its a U.S. bioweapon.
Nothing like germ warfare to really motivate hate against an opponent.
Time to update the narrative. OUTSIDE Idlib, for over a year various groups went under Turkish control. Those were mostly hundreds of groups US funded prior to switching to Kurds “Syrian Democratic Forces”, called “Free Syrian Army”, and self-defense groups that sprung after Syrian Army withdrew from border as ISIS spread. Those under Turkish command never engaged with Syrian Army — in spite of some delicious hopes nurtured by pro-Western media.
INSIDE Idlib — various groups that were resettled there as part of peace deal fell under HTS control. Former Al-Qaeda got Western funding to control Idlib. Their funding is through White Helmets, run by British and US intelligence and special forces. Many of them were captured in a chaotic exit from Aleppo. Today, UN is enabling HTS rule over Idlib by letting them control aid.
A year ago a number of non-HTS groups fled out of Idlib, but HTS conditioned their food on their fighters moving against Syrian Army.
The change of tactics from Turkey. Idlib mountain did not come to Turkey — Turkey went to Idlib. One, Turkey was not letting HTS push refugees their way — a powerful issue in Turkey — and sealed its border. Then it moved troops in. In the name of anger against Assad, it got some rebel obedience in Idlib.
After Turkey very theatrically asked NATO to help, then US to help — it cut the deal with Russia. The deal is patrolling East-West M4 highway — insuring Idlib irrelevance.
So today — US and UK are still not giving up on Idlib. HTS is forcing remaining loyalists to attack patrols, even damage roads the patrols use.
In one of the raids Turkish soldiers were injured. Turkey is repositioning itself to hit back HTS led groups. This will eventually lead to the demise of HTS. Now, White Helmets are jumping on Coronavirus bandwagon, trying to get back the access to Turkish controlled Idlib.
It is important to distinguish HTS — and grouos it still controls, from groups that lately switched to Turkey and are NOT attacking patrols.
How will epidemic affect the reasoning of militant groups still loyal to HTS and West? Hard to say. They have families and will have to weigh the loss of Western funding vs the peace Turkey offers. HTS cannot afford to let Turkey and Russia consolidate region piece by piece, and must provoke conflict. Will the pay be worth it to them? Will the prospect of ending HTS dependency be more attractive now that Turkey is actually on the ground? Will they accept Turkey as their broker in future oeace conference?
In every country on earth, the tyrants will be using this “crisis” as a means to rid themselves of the threats to their power….and the US will be no different (and NO, that was NOT a jab at Trump specifically, but the government and its puppetmasters in general).
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