As COVID-19 spread globally, concern grew for the 11.7 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in Syria, where over nine years of conflict and displacement have decimated almost half of the country’s health facilities. Restrictions on the importation of medical supplies, limited access to essential equipment, reduced outside support, and ongoing attacks on medical facilities have left Syria’s health infrastructure in peril and unable to meet the needs of its population.
After the first case of the virus was confirmed in Damascus on 21 March, authorities began imposing movement restrictions. By the end of April, however, lockdowns began to loosen in government-held areas, allowing businesses and markets to open if they adhered to public safety measures like distancing and disinfecting surfaces.
On 11 May, authorities in North East Syria (NES) announced the reopening of mosques. As of 22 June, the Syrian Ministry of Health reported a total of 204 COVID-19 cases.
To better understand how information on the virus has reached the population and influenced trust, behaviour and economic status, Ground Truth Solutions (GTS) worked with the Humanitarian Needs Assessment Programme (HNAP) in May to survey 6,844 community focal points across all 14 of Syria’s governorates; Al-Hasakeh,
Aleppo, Ar-Raqqa, As-Sweida, Damascus, Dar’a, Deir-ez-Zor, Hama, Homs, Idleb, Lattakia, Quneitra, Rural Damascus, and Tartous governorates. They told us:
• Most people (60%) do not feel that they have sufficient information to protect themselves from the virus.
• Meeting basic needs has become more difficult since the start of the pandemic, due to increased prices, job and income losses, and inability to access shops.
People worry about going into or exacerbating debt, being unable to buy basic items and having to sell or spend assets and savings to survive.
• While most are attempting to abide by COVID-19 guidelines, many find it difficult to remain indoors and adhere to social distancing measures when they need to leave the house to work and meet household needs.