UNITED NATIONS (UPDATED) – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed Monday, March 23, for an “immediate global ceasefire” to protect vulnerable civilians in conflict zones from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war,” he said in a brief speech at UN headquarters in New York, mentioning no country by name. “That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.”
Syria has reported its first case of the COVID-19 virus, in a country already torn by 10 years of war, and other cases have emerged in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Afghanistan.
Experts and diplomats expect the virus to wreak havoc in countries in conflict, which often are very poor and with fragile health care systems.
“It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives,” Guterres said. “Silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the air strikes.”
Doing so, he said, was crucial for opening corridors to deliver life-saving aid.
“End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world. It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now,” he said.
After Guterres’ call last week for a global response to the pandemic, which he said has put “millions” of lives at risk, the UN is expected to unveil on Wednesday, March 25, a detailed worldwide plan of humanitarian relief with the creation of a fund dedicated to the international fight against the virus.
Below is the full text of Guterres’ speech:
Our world faces a common enemy: COVID-19.
The virus does not care about nationality or ethnicity, faction or faith. It attacks all, relentlessly.
Meanwhile, armed conflict rages on around the world.
The most vulnerable – women and children, people with disabilities, the marginalized and the displaced – pay the highest price.
They are also at the highest risk of suffering devastating losses from COVID-19.
Let’s not forget that in war-ravaged countries, health systems have collapsed.
Health professionals, already few in number, have often been targeted.
Refugees and others displaced by violent conflict are doubly vulnerable.
The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war.
That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world.
It is time to put armed conflict on lockdown and focus together on the true fight of our lives.
To warring parties, I say:
Pull back from hostilities.
Put aside mistrust and animosity.
Silence the guns; stop the artillery; end the airstrikes.
This is crucial…
To help create corridors for life-saving aid.
To open precious windows for diplomacy.
To bring hope to places among the most vulnerable to COVID-19.
Let us take inspiration from coalitions and dialogue slowly taking shape among rival parties to enable joint approaches to COVID-19. But we need much more.
End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world.
It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now.
That is what our human family needs, now more than ever. – Rappler.com