Health must be a top priority in the Iran nuclear deal: The Lancet

May 18, 2021 - 23:7

Unilateral U.S. sanctions against Iran in recent years have been harsh on the health and lives of Iranians, The Lancet wrote in a commentary on May 17.

Many scholars have reported that sanctions markedly deteriorate people's health.

Restrictions on financial transactions and trade undermine access to basic needs such as food, medicine, and medical supplies. Moreover, the impacts of sanctions on the economy have decreased the ability of Iranians to pay for life-saving services.
Coping with the COVID-19 pandemic has multiplied the negative impact of the sanctions.

Iran is seeing the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, with a daily death toll of more than 360 people, as of May 13, 2021, according to WHO. Case numbers and mortality might continue to surge given the inadequate vaccination levels of the population. Despite compelling evidence on the harsh effect on health, the sanction-implementing agencies have always stated they did not target people's health and that essential medicines and equipment are exempt from the embargo.

Following President Biden's inauguration, a new round of negotiations on returning to the Iran nuclear deal has begun. Two task forces have been defined in the preliminary negotiations: one to return sanctions imposed during the Trump administration and the other to return Iran to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action commitments. Experience of previous negotiations has shown that reaching any agreement can take months. One area of mutual agreement is that people's health, as a human right, must be preserved under any sanction regime. Given the impact of current sanctions on citizens' health, immediate action is needed to review barriers to the equitable access of people to medicines and medical supplies.

In parallel with the task force work, we recommend the formation of an additional group to identify immediate measures to reduce the impact of sanctions on health. For example, protecting certain banking channels through specific financial institutions could facilitate the provision of medicines and health-related products. Immediate policies are required to alleviate the negative effects of sanctions to save lives in Iran. Agreements on health should be on a shorter timeline than other disrupted issues that might require longer and more serious negotiations.


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