After momentous discussions with three Iraqi armed actors on COVID-19 response measures and the protection of health care, they signed a Unilateral Declaration on COVID-19 and Health Care supported by Geneva Call and commit to safeguard access to health care and to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
By signing the Declaration, the Harakat Hizbollah Al-Nujaba and Jund al Imam Popular Mobilization Forces, two Shia armed actor part of the umbrella organization Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), and the Ezidkhan Protection Force, a Yazidi armed actor from Sinjar, commit, 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”.
“In the time of this tremendous ordeal, we stand with humanity in the fight against this novel infectious virus. We will contribute substantially to the containment of this deadly virus because humanity is above all political, economic, cultural, and ideological differences and stances. Therefore, we worked, are and will continue working in order to help all communities seeking support to confront this lethal virus” asserts a Harakat Hizbollah Al-Nujaba spokesperson after the signing.
To support these efforts, Geneva Call has been advocating for the protection and safe return of Internally Displaces Persons (IDPs) to their homes and has launched an online campaign focused on the protection of health care and the protection of IDPs, which reached more than 3 million people in Iraq. “The more people live in crowded camps”, explains Atif Hameed, Head of Mission for Iraq, “the more difficult it gets to fight the outbreak; this is why it is more important now than ever before to engage armed actors at policy level, not only to fight against the COVID-19 pandemic but also to ensure the safety and security of civilians, either in camps or outside.”.
In parallel, Geneva Call has been working towards an increased collaboration with the UN and other international organizations, to coordinate and better support the health crisis. For instance, because of its relations with certain armed actors, Geneva Call has been able to discuss with them the access of humanitarian and health missions, and is working to connect different stakeholders, humanitarian actors, and other actors, with the leadership of armed actors with the aim to ensure they have the health response equipment, tools and information they need to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.