Armed conflict forced more than 660,000 people around the world to flee their homes between March 23 and May 15, leaving people more exposed to Covid-19 and preventing global efforts to control the pandemic.
“At a time when health experts tell us to stay at home, men with guns are forcing hundreds of thousands out of their homes and into extreme vulnerability,” said NRC’s Secretary General Jan Egeland. “This not only hurts those who are forced to flee, it seriously undermines our joint efforts to combat the virus.”
New figures released today by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) show that armed hostilities have continued despite a call on March 23 from the United Nations’ Secretary-General António Guterres for a global ceasefire in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Of the 661,000 internally displaced in 19 countries in two months, the highest number by far was in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where clashes between armed groups and the country’s military forced more than 480,000 people to flee their homes.
Even in countries where warring parties have expressed support for a ceasefire call, the fighting has not stopped. In Yemen, the Saudi-led coalition announced that they would implement a unilateral ceasefire. However, airstrikes have continued, and the other parties have undertaken armed operations resulting in the displacement of 24,000 people since March 23.
“My cousin tried to flee the farm with his family, but an airstrike hit them. Three were killed, including a baby,” said Ali, a Yemeni father, who was forced to flee on May 6.
The Lake Chad region has also experienced an internal displacement surge with Chad and Niger worst affected. Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Syria, Somalia and Myanmar all saw more than 10,000 people displaced in the same period.
The UN Security Council has failed to provide leadership for ceasefires, peace talks or protection of civilians during the pandemic. While there is broad agreement on the call for a global ceasefire, powerful countries including the US and China, are stalling progress by bringing their bilateral disagreements into council deliberations.
NRC appeals to UNSC members to issue a clear call to warring parties to halt the conduct of hostilities and to settle their conflicts through talks and allow for a systematic response to the pandemic.
“While people are being displaced and killed, powerful members of the UN Security Council squabble like children in a sandbox,” Egeland said. “World leaders must rise to the occasion and jointly push parties to cease their fire and unite in protecting all communities from Covid-19. Now is not the time for kindergarten politics.”