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UN Officials Call for Lifting Unilateral Sanctions on Syria

March 31, 2020 (EIRNS)—Both UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock and UN Special Envoy for Syria Geir Pedersen passionately called on the UN Security Council yesterday to lift sanctions against Syria in order to enable the country to fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Lowcock told the UNSC that the ten cases and one death (a second death was reported later in the day) that had been reported in Syria are “the tip of the iceberg, with the virus having the potential to have a devastating impact on vulnerable communities across the country.” Lowcock said that “all efforts to prevent, detect and respond to COVID-19 are impeded by Syria’s fragile health system,” declaring that only half the country’s hospitals and primary health care facilities were fully functional at the end of 2019.

Lowcock further asserted that humanitarian needs in Syria remain “enormous,” with UN data showing clear evidence of deteriorating conditions since December. “We are for example seeing increased rates of stunting—a consequence of child malnutrition, from which it is rarely possible fully to recover,” Lowcock said.

Pedersen, in his statement, observed that the Syrian government has taken “increasingly significant steps to counter COVID-19,” including by imposing curfews, closing public spaces and preparing healthcare to the extent possible. De facto authorities in those areas outside of the control of the government are also taking measures, he stated. “I hope that international donors will do whatever must be done so that Syrians in all parts of the country have access to the equipment and resources needed to combat the virus and treat patients,” he said. He pointed to the March 27 appeal by Secretary General Antonio Guterres “for the waiving of sanctions that can undermine countries’ capacity to respond to the pandemic.”

Pedersen said that in addition to the traditional donor countries, the UN is also engaging both China and Cuba “to see what they can do to render direct assistance in Syria.”

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