Syria Relief, the UK's largest Syria focused NGO, have declared the situation across the whole of Syria at "emergency" levels and have called on international governments and actors within the conflict to take immediate action to attempt to stop the crisis worsening.
A statment from Charles Lawley, Syria Relief's Head of Advocacy, reads:
It is with great regret that we at Syria Relief have been forced to officially declare the COVID-19 situation in Syria an “emergency.” We are today calling on urgent support from international governments and donations from the general public to help fight the spiralling crisis. We are also calling on all actors within the Syrian conflict to direct resources away from fighting and towards providing medical support for the victims.
The deliberate tactic used throughout this conflict to destroy hospitals and kill medical workers has left Syrians vulnerable to impacts of this pandemic. So for, during the conflict, over 40% of Syria’s healthcare facilities have been destroyed or damaged. Numerous Syria Relief hospitals and clinics have been targeted and we have had healthcare staff killed in recent months. This had led to a lack of medical infrastructure, particularly in the Northwest and Northeast. In South of Syria especially, it is believed that the real number of Coronavirus cases is exponentially larger than the official cases due to a lack of transparency and testing capacity.
Our colleagues at WorldVision reported this week that the number of cases in war-torn Idlib and the rest of Northwest Syria, confirmed cases have increased by 1,300% in a month. We are hearing reports of some hospitals inside Syria closing their door to suspected COVID cases to protect other patients, people being unable to afford a COVID test and others fearing of the consequences of going to official healthcare facilities.
Today, we are calling on the UK government and all governments to:
• Urgently increase the support, both financial and medical, to Syria
• Pressure any allies they have within the conflict to prioritise fighting coronavirus over fighting enemies
• Pressure any allies they have within the conflict to ensure that civilian life and civilian infrastructure, such as medical facilities, are no longer treated as military targets
• Work towards brokering a long term ceasefire where the safety and dignity of the civilian population is the priority and humanitarian aid is free to flow where it is needed most and is not restricted by conflict lines
We are calling on all actors in the Syrian conflict:
• Immediately redirect all resources being used to wage war towards helping deal with this spiralling pandemic
• Obey international law and not target civilian infrastructure, such as medical facilities
• Allow NGOs, like Syria Relief, to operate safely across conflict lines and ensure that aid workers and medical staff are protected as they attempt to stem the flow of the raging humanitarian crisis
• Realise that the biggest enemy facing them is not their fellow Syrians, but COVID-19