Covid-19 Emergency Appeal

No one is less prepared for the coronavirus outbreak than a Syrian family sleeping in a tent tonight.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

By Charles Lawley, Head of Advocacy and PR

Last Thursday, as I was stood at my front door applauding the fabulous work of key workers in the UK, such as NHS staff, I couldn’t help but think that we treat our medical professionals in the UK a lot differently to how they are treated in Syria. My mind is drawn to a tweet in August from Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute where, after an airstrike on a SAMS medical facility in Marat Humah killed an ambulance driver and a paramedic, minutes later a second attack on the same site killed a Syrian Civil Defence volunteer who had arrived to help rescue people affected. Lister wrote “This is called a “double tap.” It’s designed **specifically** to target rescue workers.

In an online discussion hosted by Caabu (Council of Arab and British Understanding), Mazen Gharibah and Zaki Mehchy from the LSE highlighted that in Idlib, for a population of 3.5million people there are just:

-1,937 hospital beds - 20 intensive care beds - 60 ventilators - 600 doctors.

There have been only 600 COVID-19 testing kits delivered to North West Syria, so far, and in the North East, there has not been a single testing kit delivered. Due to the deliberate targeting of hospitals, the healthcare system in Northern Syria has already collapsed – they cannot possibly cope with a Coronavirus outbreak. Internationally we have seen that 5% of Coronavirus cases require critical care. If Idlib gets just 350 cases of Coronavirus (which would represent 0.01% of the population contracting the virus) they would be unable to cope.

Throughout the country there has officially been 19 cases reported, 2 deaths and 2 recoveries. However due to a combination of lack of testing and lack transparency, the number is believed to be much higher. Due to the politics and impact of the conflict, the response differs greatly by province and who controls it. As both Ghraibah and Mehchy state in their paper COVID-19 pandemic: Syria’s response and healthcare capacity.

“Northwest Syria and Northeast Syria have a particular vulnerability owing to the large internally-displaced populations and lack of adequate healthcare facilities. However, civil society organisations and local initiatives are better placed in these areas to implement community-based response plans…”

The Coronavirus will finally finish off the parts of the Idlib healthcare system that the deliberate airstrikes and shelling of hospitals and healthcare facilities didn’t get. People in Northern Syria are reliant on NGOs like Syria Relief for healthcare – even though we have had a number of our healthcare facilities damaged and destroyed by the violence. Despite the violence, last year alone, 177,664 people benefited from our 8 static health facilities and 6,771 people benefitted from our 4 mobile health facilities. We also managed to vaccinate 15,900 children and give 48,882 nutritional support.

Syria Relief is operating a campaign to help the people in Northern Syria and Syrian refugees who are the most vulnerable in the world to this outbreak. We urgently need you to donate to help prevent and treat the devastating impact of COVID-19.

Thousands of Syrian families who have fled their homes and are now living in makeshift camps, in close proximity to many others,  are extremely vulnerable to the current coronavirus outbreak. This war has taken everything from them but now they face a new threat: COVID-19.

Displaced and refugee families are living in dangerous conditions with no clean water, sanitation or hygiene equipment. With no cleaning facilities or clean water, parents are unable to protect their children from the virus.  Many already have health conditions caused by their unsuitable shelter during winter or as a result of injuries sustained from airstrikes and conflict. With only 64% of hospitals operational in Syria and a lack of medical professionals, the virus outbreak will be catastrophic for displaced families.

Our team are on the ground providing access to clean water, distributing hygiene kits, running awareness training and supporting hospitals and healthcare centres across the region. But we need your help!

9 years of war has killed, injured and displaced millions of Syrian’s, COVID-19 will kill many more unless you donate now.