The failure of the global community to work for a ceasefire in conflict zones has heightened the risk posed by the COVID-19 pandemic for over two billion people, says a new report. The report titled ‘Conflict in the time of Coronavirus’ was published on May 12, Tuesday, by Oxfam, an international NGO working on issues of global poverty.
Several ongoing wars and conflicts have not only destroyed the health infrastructure in affected regions and made governance structures ineffective, but have also forced a large number of people to flee their homes and live in overcrowded camps for refugees and the displaced.
According to the report, the continuation of these conflicts amounts to a direct failure of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Most of the members of the UNSC, such as the US and France, have continued arms trade and their support for third parties involved in regional conflicts. This is despite warnings and appeals highlighting the greater risk to people in these countries. An example is the Western-backed Saudi Arabia-led military coalition in Yemen, responsible for one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
The report notes that in 2019 alone, the total global spending on military was more than USD 1.9 trillion. According to the report, this amount is 280 times higher than the sum quoted by the UN for health sector-related support to developing countries to aid in their fight against the pandemic.
On May 8, countries such as the US refused to vote on a UNSC resolution calling for a global ceasefire. Several countries continue to support and incite conflicts in different parts of the world despite an appeal by UN secretary general António Guterres on March 23 against such acts.
The report concludes that halting conflicts globally is the only means to enable an effective response to the COVID-19 crisis.
The report highlights the case of conflict-ridden countries like the Central African Republic, Myanmar, Yemen and Afghanistan. It also points to cases like Colombia, where the rebel National Liberation Army (ELN) has declared a unilateral ceasefire but the government and other parties have failed to do so.
Oxfam asked countries to stop fueling conflicts in a bid to sell arms. Oxfam executive director Jose Maria Vera appealed to states to “instead make efforts to pressure warring parties to agree to a global ceasefire and invest in peace efforts.”