Ceasefire and funding needed by two billion people caught between conflict & COVID-19: Oxfam

Campaigns and Advocacy, Emergencies, Foreign aid, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases article written on the 12 May 2020

Oxfam has calculated that the US$1.9 trillion in 2019 global military spending would have paid for the UN’s updated coronavirus appeal more than 280 times, as the aid agency again calls for the Australian Government to contribute its fair share to the global pandemic response.

A new Oxfam report, Conflict in the Time of Coronavirus, shows that with efforts to forge a global ceasefire failing at the United Nations Security Council, two billion people living in fragile and conflict-affected states are caught in situations where managing the spread of coronavirus is close to impossible.

What’s more, wealthy western countries – including those who claim to support calls for peace – have continued with arms sales against the backdrop of coronavirus, further fuelling ongoing conflicts.

The report also highlighted:

  • In Myanmar, the army has rejected domestic and international calls for a ceasefire while fighting in Rakhine state increased, with frequent airstrikes and shelling in populated areas. Across Rakhine, hundreds of thousands of people are living in overcrowded shelters with extremely limited access to health care. An estimated one million people are cut off from the internet when information about the virus is lifesaving.
  • Saudi Arabia announced a two-week unilateral ceasefire in Yemen from 9 April and later extended it a month but fighting continues by all sides in the conflict. Barely half of Yemen’s health facilities are still working and there have been more than 100,000 suspected cases of cholera this year so far.
  • In Afghanistan, the intra-Afghan peace negotiations scheduled in March have been delayed and the Taliban is refusing a ceasefire without the government reciprocating.

Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said the UN Secretary General’s call for a ceasefire in late March was an important effort to create safe conditions for countries to manage the pandemic.

“Ongoing conflict jeopardises the health of entire communities by further damaging already crippled health systems, and forcing people to flee to overcrowded camps where conditions are ideal for the virus to spread,” Ms Morgain said.

“This was the time for the UN Security Council to show the leadership we need. Its inability to pass this critical resolution for a global ceasefire is merely the latest of a litany of failures that are sustaining conflicts at a time when peace and international cooperation is needed,” she said.

“Arms exporting countries must stop fuelling conflict and instead make every effort to pressure warring parties to agree to a global ceasefire and invest in peace efforts that can bring a meaningful end to conflict.

“Australia has a role to play in these international forums and can help save lives by contributing at least $84 million to the UN’s new Global Humanitarian Response Plan.”

For interviews or more information, please contact Lily Partland on 0418 118 687 or lilyp@oxfam.org.au

You can donate to Oxfam’s Coronavirus Emergency Appeal here.

Notes to Editors

  • Global military expenditure in 2019 was $1.9 trillion, according to SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute).
  • The current UN appeal to respond to the coronavirus crisis is $6.7billion, according to UNOCHA. Two billion people are living in conflict affected states according to UN Global Humanitarian Review 2019.
  • Oxfam is scaling up its programs to help 14 million people in 50 countries across the globe to fight the virus. Focusing on some of the hardest-hit conflict zones, including Yemen, DRC and Burkina Faso, Oxfam is providing hygiene and clean water, health awareness, support to hospitals as well as cash to families displaced by the conflict to buy food and basic necessities.