COVID-19: How IHL provides crucial safeguards during pandemics

For people living in war-torn countries, International humanitarian law (IHL) provides crucial safeguards – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Article 31 March 2020

War has not stopped because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and our work protecting and assisting victims of conflict during the pandemic is essential: both stepping up our response to this virus, and continuing to provide humanitarian relief and protection to communities for whom this is just one additional threat.

We are adapting our existing activities to the new COVID-19 reality, factoring the pandemic into all our programming. It is vital that key provisions of IHL are respected in order to respond adequately to the needs of communities, health professionals and authorities during these unprecedented times. These provisions include:

  • Medical personnel, facilities and transport
  • Water
  • Humanitarian relief
  • Persons specifically at risk
  • Detainees
  • Internally displaced persons, migrants, asylum seekers and refugees
  • Children and education
  • Sanctions regimes and other restrictive measures

Summary of IHL provisions relevant to COVID-19:

This overview created for States, organizations and communities summarizes some of the main provisions of IHL that may be particularly relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 and humanitarian access:

This document provides an overview of IHL Rules on Humanitarian Access and COVID-19.