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COVID-19 Surge In Northwest Syria As Cases Multiply By 14 In One Month

Almost 100 cases being reported every day

  • 2.7 million displaced people at high risk of contracting virus
  • Health workers responding in weak health system are testing positive

The increase in COVID-19 cases in Northwest Syria has reached alarming levels, with almost 100 new cases being reported every day. Millions of people remain displaced in the area[1] and they are particularly at risk. World Vision warns that unless the already weakened health system receives immediate international support, the situation will become dramatically worse very quickly.

“The number of cases has increased by 14 times since last month, with more than a thousand cases recorded. The health system in North West Syria is not capable of dealing with this crisis. We desperately need support to improve testing capacity, preventive equipment, and surveillance systems. Without increased international aid Syrian children and their families, who have been forced from their homes and have endured almost ten years of conflict, will suffer even more.” said Johan Mooij, Syria Response Director at World Vision.

This year alone, 218 children have been killed and another 800 civilians died[2] due to the conflict in Syria. COVID-19 is an additional crisis. Many health workers, who are already under huge pressure to do their job in a weak health system, are now reportedly testing positive for COVID-19 – putting effective containment and response to the virus at even greater risk.

“The number of Syrian people infected with this virus began to increase slowly at the beginning of July, but now we are seeing a dramatic surge in positive cases,” said Mr Mooij. “We are seriously concerned about the dreadful impact this will have on displaced people in the northern part of the country. These people have been displaced for years on end. Profound economic deterioration in Syria makes their situation even more difficult and now the threat of COVID-19 is causing more stress, fear and dependency on external aid.” he added.

Due to the severe lack of testing capacities in the area and perceived underreporting, aid agencies[3] on the ground fear that the actual number of positive cases is much higher. UN reports have stated that people with COVID-19 symptoms have not been seeking treatment, either due to fear of stigmatisation or of catching the virus in the medical facilities.

“Although they are increasing at an alarming rate, the current official figures do not show the true picture of the severity of this pandemic in Nothwest Syria. We believe that the number of confirmed cases will dramatically increase if testing becomes more readily available” said Mr Mooji.

As winter approaches, World Vision is extremely worried about the safety of vulnerable displaced children “At least 6 children in northwest Syria died at the beginning of this year because of the freezing temperatures which dropped to below zero degrees. With the current pandemic, there is no doubt this upcoming winter is going to be significantly harsh for them. We cannot let this happen again,” commented Mooij.

Equal access to medical care for all - displaced populations and local communities - is key to prevent yet another crisis in Northwest Syria. World Vision believes that for this to happen, fighting must immediately stop, and health facilities must be strengthened to accommodate the growing number of cases in the country.

[1] https://www.unocha.org/syrian-arab-republic/about-ocha-syria

[2] https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/over-1-000-civilians-killed-in-syria-in-2020-watchdog/1896441

[3] https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/09/02/syria-health-workers-lack-protection-pandemic

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