COVID-19 has compounded plight of civilians - GulfToday

COVID-19 has compounded plight of civilians


Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the woes of civilians caught in conflict-affected areas.

The deadly virus, which is spreading obstinately, threatens refugees and internally displaced people crowded together in camps and communities that lack sanitation and healthcare facilities.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres correctly told a high-level video conference on the protection of civilians in armed conflict that the coronavirus is causing enormous human suffering and additional stress to vulnerable health systems, economies and communities already weakened by years of armed conflict.

As access to services is curtailed and repressive measures are adopted by some nations, protecting the most vulnerable, particularly in conflict zones, has become even more difficult.

COVID-19 is not only spreading sickness and death; it is pushing people into poverty and hunger and reversing decades of development progress.

Consider this scenario: against the backdrop of little progress on international law compliance; more than 20,000 civilian casualties in just ten conflicts; tens of thousands of children recruited into hostilities last year; millions of displaced people; women and girls subjected to appalling levels of sexual and gender-based violence; the disproportionate impact on people with disabilities; and conflict as the main driver of global hunger.

The world certainly needs to do more to prevent, reduce and resolve conflicts as well as ensure compliance with international law and accountability. Sustainable political solutions remain the only way to ensure that civilians are kept safe from harm, as Guterres suggests.

The UAE, on its part, has renewed its commitment to bridging the gap between rhetoric and action to protect civilians and upholding international law during the open debate of the UN Security Council on the protection of civilians.

In its written submission to the UN Security Council, the UAE has clearly stated, “These are difficult times for civilians in conflict-affected areas around the world. In addition to the existing threats they face — violence, food insecurity and displacement, among others — the COVID-19 pandemic presents a dramatic new threat to civilians and has created new challenges to their safety. In order to mitigate the impact of armed conflict on civilians around the world, the UAE takes this opportunity to renew its support for, and commitment to, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ appeal for a global ceasefire. As he underscored, this is the most effective way to protect civilians and is also an opportunity to remind us of our shared humanity.”

Protecting vulnerable populations has always been at the core of the UAE’s humanitarian programmes and its efforts to support the global fight against the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The UAE has partnered with the World Health Organisation to support the global delivery of critical medical equipment through Dubai’s International Humanitarian City.

Recently, the UAE also launched an international air bridge operation in partnership with the World Food Programme that will enable the movement of life-saving cargo and personnel where they are needed most.

The UAE has also rightly urged the Council to tailor and apply the range of tools within its disposal to effectively address the growing threat to civilians posed by non-state actors and ensure their compliance.

The UAE is absolutely correct in underscoring the importance of addressing grave violations of international humanitarian law committed by non-state actors, such as the Houthis in Yemen.

Left unanswered, such violations could contribute to the erosion of the essential set of rules that can mitigate the effects of armed conflict.

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