The Syrian Interim Government (SIG) Saturday urged the international community and the U.N. to provide support to prevent a novel coronavirus outbreak in war-torn northwestern Syria.
Damaged health infrastructure and massive displacement due to attacks by the Bashar Assad regime and Russia make potential containment measures in the region a nearly impossible task.
“The Syrian Interim government stressed the need for the international community, the U.N., the World Health Organization, the major actors and humanitarian organizations to honor their pledges to assist the SIG’s Ministry of Health in confronting the COVID-19 pandemic and preventing its outbreak in northern Syria,” a written statement of the Prime Minister’s Office said.
The SIG warned of a looming disaster as the liberated areas suffer “severe deterioration of the health sector due to the Assad regime and its allies’ bombing of hospitals and medical centers.”
Yearslong sieges caused the deterioration of the physical health of many people, who suffered malnutrition and widespread poverty. Another risk is that people often live in overcrowded places and camps – ideal for the spread of the virus. The camps are generally in poor conditions with a lack of access to water, hygiene, medical aid and food. “In such circumstances, the chances of success in applying self-isolation are weak or near impossible,” the statement elaborated.
Medical workers in the Operation Olive Branch and Euphrates Shield areas urged people on the streets to stay indoors and informed them that staying home is vital for the prevention of the spread of the virus.
The statement said further that the ministry of health had conducted an early awareness-raising campaign and then began testing suspected cases to avoid a new tragedy but that resources remained insufficient.
Turkey has rolled-up their sleeves to inform Syrians living in Turkish-backed Syrian opposition-controlled areas about the new coronavirus outbreak and raise awareness among locals to protect themselves from spreading the virus in the war-torn country. Units working under the Turkish Health Ministry have started to distribute information brochures door-to-door in areas previously cleared of terrorists by the Turkish Army.
The brochures, prepared by the Turkish Presidency’s Communications Directorate, are in Arabic and explain the ways to protect oneself from the new type of coronavirus. The brochures are distributed in the Operation Olive Branch, Operation Euphrates Shield and Operation Peace Spring areas, the directorate said in a statement Friday.
“Although the ministry has communicated with the World Health Organization (WHO) and a comprehensive plan has been drawn up to deal with developments related to the pandemic, only about 5% of the plan has been implemented,” it underlined.
The risk of an outbreak is especially high and most alarming in Syria's northwest, where some 3 million people are trapped in a shrinking opposition bastion battered by months of bombardment, especially in Idlib. With close to a million people displaced since December by a Russian-backed regime offensive on the Idlib region, overcrowded settlements are teeming with fresh arrivals, and many of the displaced are forced to sleep in freezing temperatures in open spaces.