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
Saturday, 3 October 2020 - COVID-19 case increases in Northwest Syria have reached alarming levels, almost 100 new cases are being reported every single day as 2.7 million people remain displaced in the area. Child focused aid agency 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 have increased by 14 times since last month with over 1,000 positive cases recorded. Children on the move are at a higher risk than ever before. 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[]((https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/over-1-000-civilians-killed-in-syri...). Covid-19 is a crisis within a crisis in Northwest Syria. 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 on the ground fear that the actual number of positive cases is actually much higher. UN reports have stated that people with COVID 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 Northwest 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.
·To mitigate the immediate and longer-term impacts of COVID-19 on families and children, and to ensure the safety of children and communities, World Vision has adapted how it works with a number of essential services and supports now temporarily provided remotely where possible. This includes remote case management, mental health and psycho-social support, gender-based violence prevention and response, parenting support, and remote learning resources and materials among other key interventions.
·Photos and b-roll clips of hospitals in northwest Syria are available for free use and distribution upon request.
World Vision is a global humanitarian organisation dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities to reach their full potential by tackling the root causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit www.wvi.org/syria-response or follow us on Twitter @WorldVisionSR
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