Humanitarian groups ring alarm bells on spread of coronavirus in Syria
White Helmets Photo
Date: 2020-03-19 12:20
Humanitarian organizations warned on Wednesday (March 18) of dramatic consequences if the new coronavirus hits refugees stranded in northern Syria due to violence.
"As brutal as it sounds, you will almost have to expect mass extinction," if coronavirus reaches areas in northwestern Syria, Dirk Hegmanns, the regional director for Syria of the German Welthungerhilfe (World Hunger Aid) organization, said.
He told DPA that a regime offensive, which started against the opposition province of Idlib in north-western Syria in late April, had destroyed dozens of hospitals.
The health care sector in the region is already burdened with treating those injured in the violence there, according to him.
In the same vein, the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) warned that a spread of the virus in north-western Syria could result in a rapidly critical situation if additional support and measures are not put in place.
"The disease would spread very quickly, especially in camp settings," Stefan Dold, the MSF press officer in Berlin, said.
MSF is supporting the local health authorities in northwestern Syria to prepare for a potential outbreak, Dold told DPA.
According to the United Nations, an estimated 400,000 people have been displaced due to violence from the southern countryside of Idlib to areas near the northern Syrian-Turkish border since December.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was extremely concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus in northwestern Syria.
IDPs in the area are living under conditions that make them vulnerable to respiratory infections, the WHO said in a statement.
The organization cited overcrowded living conditions, physical and mental stress and deprivation due to lack of housing and clean water.
"WHO is preparing for contagion across Syria, prioritizing prevention, preparedness and risk communication, with a focus on supporting health responders to detect, diagnose and prevent spread," Hedinn Halldorsson, the agency's spokesman, told DPA.
The White Helmets, a voluntary non-government group working in Syria's opposition areas and the local Attaa Humanitarian Relief Society, said they had embarked on prevention campaigns among the refugees and residents in Idlib.
Malek Taleb, an Attaa official in Idlib, said the "large crowding, malnutrition, the use of shared water tanks and the poor housing" prompted the organization to spread immediate health awareness among the IDPs.
"We will be carrying out intensive awareness campaigns starting on Friday in coordination with health associations in north-western Syria," Raed Saleh, the White Helmets head, told DPA.
The Assad regime has denied recording any coronavirus case in areas under its control as the Syrian revolution has entered its 10th year.
Based on DPA