By Peter Kenny
GENEVA (AA) – The International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) and Red Crescent Societies said on Friday it is deeply saddened by the recent loss of life in Myanmar and urged "immediate protection" for all volunteers and health workers.
"Amid the spiraling violence, the Myanmar Red Cross has confirmed that over recent days, there have been very serious incidents where Red Cross volunteers were injured and wrongfully arrested," IFRC's Asia Pacific Regional Director Alexander Matheou was quoted as saying.
More than 60 people have been killed and an excess of 1,000 have been arrested during anti-coup demonstrations in Myanmar that have denounced military rule following the Feb. 1 putsch.
The IFRC expressed profound sadness that Myanmar Red Cross volunteers were injured while on duty.
They were providing life-saving first aid to those who were injured, in line with humanity's fundamental principles, neutrality and impartiality, according to the IFRC.
"Red Cross volunteers should never be targeted," said Matheou.
The Myanmar Red Cross mounted one of its largest-ever first aid and patient transfer humanitarian operations with more than 1,500 volunteers and 120 ambulances across the country, said the IFRC.
In the past four weeks, it provided first aid services, including life-saving interventions and emergency ambulance transfers. In all, it has helped more than 1,000 people.
"There is escalating violence, and the number of people killed or injured is rising each day," Matheou said. "The IFRC urges restraint and a halt to violence across Myanmar."
The Red Cross is also very concerned that after mass gatherings and violence in recent weeks, there is a risk that the coronavirus may be spreading unabated.
"The IFRC is alarmed about the risks of another deadly wave of COVID-19 in Myanmar as testing and access to hospitals, or other health services is very limited," said Matheou.
He noted that the Red Cross and its partners continue to offer support for humanitarian endeavors at a critical time.
The IFRC is the world's largest humanitarian network, comprising 192 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.