How Iran Is fighting Pandemic and Sanctions?


It is challenging to fight a scourge like Coronavirus when the managers have mass spread on one hand and a ban from accessing global financial market or the pharma network. Iran has so far lost 1443 of its citizens to the virus. Of around 20,000 infected, almost 300 are from Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh who were on pilgrimage. In this piece that appeared in The Tribune, Iran’s India ambassador Ali Chegeni detailed the crisis that Iran is managed with limited resources at hand

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The first flight carrying the stranded students and other Indian nationals readying for takeoff from Iran on March 15, 2020

AT a time when we, Iranians, normally celebrate Nowruz, our New Year concurrent with the arrival of spring, the spread of coronavirus in the world has reached an alarming pandemic level, jeopardising health security of most countries and pushing the world economy towards a severe recession. In such circumstances, we are all faced with multiple and historic challenges and Iran, hit hard by the coronavirus, is now learning how to better cope with it.

Iran, with utmost transparency after identifying the first person infected by the virus, began confronting it and as acknowledged by the WHO representative, its government has made tremendous progress in combating and containing Covid-19 — stressing that no country can tackle this huge, dangerous crisis alone — despite having many difficulties to access international financial markets and meeting its various needs.

The good news is that Iran enjoys one of the strongest healthcare systems in the region and has made notable achievements in the field of fighting coronavirus as the Iranian knowledge-based company affiliated with the Vice Presidency for Science and Technology has synthesised a pharmaceutical composition that can cure pulmonary dysfunction in infected patients.

Following successful tests in virology laboratories, the pharmaceutical composition has now yielded successful results in healing the patients in clinical trials.

Unlike the fake news on Iran’s response projected by western media, some UN officials such as Richard Brennan, the Regional Emergency Director of the WHO, Eastern Mediterranean Region, strongly believes that Iran’s experience is a role model in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani

Despite all these efforts and achievements, it is obvious that Iran is under unilateral sanctions of the US for decades which are exacerbating the adverse impacts of the coronavirus outbreak upon the nation in the form of severe shortage of medical requirements, access to adequate funds and the possibility to pay for the priority items through the banking system.

The Iranian health sector, although among the most resilient in the region, has been consequently affected, and all measures of prevention, diagnosis and treatment are directly and indirectly hampered, resulting in falling short in combating the crisis. Lack of medical, pharmaceutical and laboratory equipment such as protective gowns and necessary medication has scaled up the burdens of the outbreak and the number of fatalities.

Despite some relief efforts by the WHO and other international humanitarian organisations and dispatching supplies and medical necessities, the speed of the outbreak and the detrimental effects of sanctions have resulted in reduced access to life-saving medicines and equipment, adding to the health sector’s pre-existing requirements for other difficult health situations.

In a hypocritical manner, the US administration has claimed that humanitarian supplies, including food and medicine, are exempt from anti-Iran sanctions, but banning Iranian banks to access SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) for fund transfer and clear threats against several foreign banks have deterred them from doing any business with Tehran, making that aspiration nothing but a mirage.

In another contradictory move, the US, which had announced a new round of sanctions against Iran as part of its so-called ‘maximum pressure’ campaign, recently said it had formally told Iran of Washington’s willingness to assist in unspecified ways through a message sent via Switzerland, which represents US interests in Tehran.

A scene on Tehran street

Recently, after 60 years, and for the first time, Iran has applied for a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to fight this epidemic. Yet, even if it gets the loan, the Iranian Government won’t be able to procure much-needed medical supplies since the sanctions make banking transactions required to secure even medical supplies and humanitarian goods virtually impossible.

The US sanctions also hamper Iran’s efforts as part of the global actions to tackle this crisis. Iran does not count on the US for help in its battle against the coronavirus because it has no trust in Washington’s alleged offer of assistance, but it is expected that the international community must be obliged to stand against the sanctions that are hurting millions of Iranians who have been paying a high price, particularly during the past days and weeks, because of the ongoing health-related restrictions against the country.

The global community must anticipate possible impacts of sanctions on humanitarian aid and move to prevent further disasters from happening. The global health community should regard these sanctions as war crimes and seek accountability from those who impose them.

In this context, the great Iranian poet, Saadi, reminds us:

Human beings are members of a whole;
In creation of one essence and soul;
If one member is afflicted with pain,
other members uneasy will remain;
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
the name of human you cannot retain.


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