Red Cross: Coronavirus Could Cause Upheaval Across Mideast
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned on Thursday that coronavirus outbreaks across the Middle East threaten to shatter the lives of millions of already destitute people in conflict zones, and could fuel socio-economic upheaval.
Curfews and lockdowns imposed as public health measures to stem the spread of the virus are already making it difficult or impossible for many to provide for their families, it said.
The Geneva-based agency called for authorities in the volatile region to prepare for a "potentially devastating aftermath" and a "socio-economic earthquake".
"The Middle East is today facing the twin threats of potential mass virus outbreaks in conflict zones and looming socio-economic upheaval. Both crises could have severe humanitarian consequences," Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC director for the Near and Middle East, said in the statement.
In an interview, he told Reuters that the aftermath of the epidemic could be worse than the disease itself, "because on top of the conflict, on top of the violence, they will have to deal with the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic. And it's really scary," he said at a largely empty ICRC headquarters.
Millions already lack health care, food, water and electricity in conflict-hit countries where prices are rising and infrastructure damaged, the ICRC said.
Millions of Syrians displaced in their homeland and refugees who have fled to Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan are especially vulnerable, as are people in Yemen.
Carboni said that the ICRC had provided its first hygiene kits and protective material for 10 central prisons in Syria that are run by the interior ministry.
Overcrowding and conditions would make it hard to contain any outbreaks, he said. "We are in dialogue with authorities to expand the support to all places of detention."