Eight Syrian armed non-State actors (ANSAs) – Division 23, Al Mo’tassem Brigade, the First Coastal Division, the Central Division, 51 Brigade, The Free Idlib Army, Jaysh al Izza (Al-Izza Army) and, finally, Jaysh al Islam, active in North West Syria, signed a “Unilateral Declaration on COVID-19 and Health Care” supported by Geneva Call to safeguard access to health care and help preventing the spread of COVID-19.
By signing the Declaration, the ANSAs committed, notably, to “respect and protect health care personnel, transports, facilities and goods”, to “take preventive measures to avoid COVID-19 spreading that are necessary and proportionate to protect public health” and to “ensure, maintain and provide access for affected populations to essential health care facilities, goods and services without discrimination” and “facilitate the provision of health care by impartial humanitarian organizations”.
Across the world, Geneva Call is leading discussions with key ANSAs on their response measures to COVID-19 and the protection of health care in the areas they control. So far, 11 ANSAs signed this Unilateral Declaration, thus highlighting and showcasing one of the practical steps they can undertake to ensure their compliance and commitment to protect civilians during this global pandemic. The Declaration will also serve as a useful tool that will contribute to the implementation plan of an already signed Deed of Commitment (DoC) on the Protection of Health Care by some of the ANSAs.
To support these efforts to help preventing the spread of COVID-19 in conflict areas, Geneva Call has launched a 13 week mass social media campaign in the Middle East using 13 messages newly developed to raise awareness on access to health care and health related issues in armed conflict situations. Geneva Call is also distributing thousands of flyers and posters on the protection of health care in times of armed conflict in North East and North West Syria. In addition, the organization has installed 5 billboards with COVID-19 prevention measures next to the main entrance of the cities of Al- Hasakah and Amuda in North East Syria, where they will be seen by the different parties to the conflict as well as the community at large.