Syria reported its first case of COVID-19 on 22 March 2020, and as of 13 May had 47 cases and 3 fatalities. Due to limited testing capacities in-country, however, it is possible the actual number of cases is higher than reported. An outbreak in overcrowded camps, sites, and communities would be disastrous in a humanitarian context already characterized by mass displacement, economic volatility, and a health system weakened from years of conflict.
Rapid assessments have shown that preventive measures were put in place in both northwest and northeast Syria as early as March. The Humanitarian Needs Assessment Programme reported community lock downs, curfews, closing of non-essential businesses, and awareness campaigns in many sub-districts across Syria, and REACH assessments reported increased hand-washing and social distancing behaviors. In northwest Syria, border crossings between Turkey and Syria have since been closed or restricted to medical emergencies and humanitarian necessity. Preparatory measures have focused on prevention, as a shortage of personal protective equipment, ventilators, and isolation units will make treatment difficult in the case of an outbreak.
Little is known about how preventive measures are impacting the knowledge, attitudes, and practices (KAP) of the Syrian population. In March 2020, UNHCR did a rapid assessment of KAP in camps and informal settlements in northeast Syria and found that most respondents had some knowledge of preventive measures and symptoms of the virus, and the source of information tended to be community health workers. Respondents were concerned about the lack of preventive resources and information, and about half of respondents reported having moderate to severe stress or feelings of helplessness towards COVID-19. More information on KAP is needed in other settings in Syria to better understand the effects of preventive measures and design appropriate risk communication campaigns.
Based on this information gap, REACH developed a KAP survey with relevant humanitarian clusters / working groups to assess knowledge, attitudes, and practices of Syrians in northeast Syria. This factsheet presents the findings from this survey.