Human Rights Watch:
Broad US-imposed economic sanctions are negatively affecting the Iranian government’s ability to adequately respond to the mounting health consequences of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The US should take immediate action to ease US sanctions and expand licensing of sanctions-exempt items to ensure Iran’s access to essential humanitarian resources during the pandemic.
According to official statistics, as of April 3, 2020, 53,183 people in Iran have contracted the virus and 3,294 have died, though the real number is most likely higher. On March 19, the spokesperson for Iran’s Health Ministry tweeted that every hour almost 50 people contract the virus and every 10 minutes one person dies because of COVID-19 across the country. As the burden on the country’s debilitated health care system has dramatically increased, the broad US economic sanctions resulting in severe international banking restrictions have drastically constrained the ability of the country to finance humanitarian imports, including medicines and medical equipment.
“It’s bad enough that Iranians are saddled with a brutal, self-serving government that refuses to even release wrongfully detained people in crowded prisons despite the risk of coronavirus,” said Kenneth Roth, Executive Director at Human Rights Watch. “But it is wrong and callous for the Trump administration to compound Iranians’ misery by depriving them of access to the critical medical resources they urgently need.”
After the Trump administration announced its intention to leave the negotiated nuclear agreement in 2018, Iran’s currency, the rial, depreciated significantly. The restrictions on financing, combined with the sharp depreciation of the rial, have resulted in severely limiting Iranian companies and hospitals from purchasing essential medicines and medical equipment from outside Iran that residents depend upon for critical medical care. Moreover, renewed US sanctions have directly impacted families’ purchasing power, contributing to inflation rates of around 30 percent in the past year.
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