IRCS, Austrian Red Cross seek enhanced co-op

November 18, 2020 - 17:55

TEHRAN – The Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) chief, Karim Hemmati, and the Austrian Red Cross secretary-general, Michael Opriesnig, discussed enhanced cooperation between the two national associations in a video conference on Wednesday.

Referring to the coronavirus pressure on all countries of the world, Hemmati said that the situation in Iran is more difficult due to the harsh U.S. sanctions, however, despite the cost of providing medicine and medical items, some are provided.

He went on to highlight that providing some of the medicine and medical equipment needed for the COVID-19 fight is very difficult in Iran.

Despite all the obstacles, the IRCS volunteers have been making great efforts to fight Coronavirus for the past nine months. In the early days of the outbreak, control of the city's exits was handed over to the Red Crescent, and 12,000 young people were able to screen 21 million people, he explained.

In addition, more than 71 million social media users have benefited from IRCS educational content on how to deal with the pandemic, he noted.

The Red Crescent Society, along with donors, youth, and volunteers in the first wave of the outbreak, was able to collect public donations and attract more than 157 international aid shipments in this regard, he stated.

In the second wave of the pandemic, we also provided quality services in the deprived areas of Sistan-Baluchestan, Kermanshah, Khuzestan, and Ilam, he added.

During the two-week lockdowns, and the IRCS has deployed 7,000 bases across the country to monitor the implementation of new restrictions and regulations, he highlighted.

Emphasizing that imposing sanctions on the Red Cross and Red Crescent societies is contrary to internationally recognized protocols, Opriesnig said that efforts have been made to lift the sanctions of the Red Crescent, but no success achieved.

Through the Austrian government, we tried to help Iran in the COVID-19 fight, he said, expressing hope to solve the problems through the Red Cross.

Our second step would be to coordinate with the Foreign Ministry and the Human Resources Committee to provide non-cash assistance, he noted, adding, Austria was one of the first countries to assist Iran in the coronavirus crisis through the World Health Organization.
The third step is the signing of a memorandum of understanding, which will be very suitable for future cooperation; Iran has provided good services to African countries, and we will use Iran's experience to help these countries, he stated.

He further expressed eagerness to use the IRCS’s good experiences in the blood products and ambulances.

How sanctions affected Iran’s health sector

Although food and medicine were claimed to be exempted from the U.S. sanctions, financial and banking sanctions have limited the life-saving medicine trade which harshly targeted the patients suffering from rare diseases.

In November 2019, Health Minister Saeed Namaki in separate letters to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore, and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom, urged the international community to break the silence on inhumane sanctions imposed by the United States against the country.

In September, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the United States of impeding Iran’s ability to fight the coronavirus outbreak, saying that U.S. sanctions have prevented the purchase of critical medical supplies.

Zarif said Washington’s efforts to stop Tehran from exporting oil have limited the government’s ability to respond to the global health crisis and provide relief to the Iranian people.

Iran also has “quite a bit of money stashed in countries abroad,” he said, adding that the U.S. has prevented Tehran from gaining access to these funds, even to buy medicine.


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