Fear of outbreak increases as the first case of COVID-19 in northwest Syria is confirmed

Syria, after facing years of war that has uprooted and damaged millions of lives, faces a threat that could spread like wildfire in crowded displacement camps. In addition to poverty, airstrikes, hunger, and a weak healthcare system, the first positive case of COVID-19 in northwest Syria was confirmed this week. The patient, who is a physician working at Bab Al-Hawa Hospital, has been in isolation since first noticing symptoms on July 5th.

Suspected cases will be referred to COVID Taskforce-approved health facilities that are properly equipped for the situation. All contacts of the patient with symptoms will be tested and monitored regularly for any development of symptoms. Testing in war-torn areas is challenging, and the SRD team is working to prevent the spread among these vulnerable communities.

As the co-lead for the Infection, Prevention, and Control (IPC) Technical Working Group, Syria Relief and Development has provided COVID IPC training and triage training for 540 medical workers and 180 health facilities in northwest Syria. Our medical staff has been educating communities and aid workers of northwest Syria on taking precautionary measures such as hygiene, social distancing, handwashing, and wearing masks to limit spread of the virus. COVID triage tents are placed in all SRD health facilities as a precautionary measure against transmission. Measures will also be taken to prevent congestion at distribution points.

Confirmation of COVID-19 in northwest Syria is especially alarming, as the medical system does not have the capacity to cope with the potential influx. The rapidly deteriorating economy has left populations reliant on international aid. If the pandemic spreads through war-torn Syria, NGOs will not be able to meet the medical needs of civilians alone.

The cross-border resolution is a critical lifeline providing 4 million civilians with humanitarian and medical assistance. The UN Security Council’s decision to renew the 2504 resolution for a duration of 12 months will decipher if millions will receive aid to adequately prepare for and respond to the spread of COVID-19. Only the Council has the power to fill these humanitarian gaps.

Syria Relief and Development continues to provide humanitarian and medical support to those who are most vulnerable in Syria. With this new scourge we are facing, we appreciate your continued support to help us respond to coronavirus in one of the most vulnerable parts of the world.