Washington, D.C. — As the novel coronavirus spreads across the Middle East, a new column from the Center for American Progress says the pandemic’s effect on the region will be magnified due to long-term violent conflicts, persistent economic crises, and ongoing political unrest.
“The coronavirus crisis highlights the chronic weaknesses of virtually all governments in the Middle East to provide basic public services,” said Peter Juul, a senior policy analyst at CAP and co-author of the column. “The potential for outbreaks in overcrowded prisons, where large numbers of political dissidents are held, also exposes the human rights abuses that have existed in many of these countries for decades.”
Some countries such as Iran and Egypt have attempted to deny and downplay the scope of the problem. Other countries such as Syria, Libya, and Yemen remain wracked by violent conflict and have been unable to implement any public health measures at all. Similarly, Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza adds a further complication to implementing effective coronavirus containment measures.
On top of these concerns, hundreds of thousands of people remain detained in prisons across the Middle East. These squalid, under-resourced, and overcrowded prisons will almost certainly prove impossible to completely sanitize or enforce effective physical distancing.
The column says it is critical that governments develop a humane, effective plan for managing prisoners and prison staff. Immediately reducing overcrowded prison populations in the Middle East is a necessary measure to prevent a catastrophic spread of the coronavirus.
Read the column: “How the Coronavirus Pandemic Exposes and Exacerbates the Middle East’s Long-Standing Governance Problems” by Peter Juul and Jenna Sjogren.
To find the latest CAP resources on the coronavirus, visit our coronavirus resource page.
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