For nine and a half years, Syria has been embroiled in an unwavering, unforgiving civil war that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands and displaced millions, instigating the greatest refugee crisis of the 21st century.
As one ceasefire after another crumbles, a peaceful solution seems to be off the table at the time being and to make matters worse, a global pandemic threatens the war-torn, underprepared Levant nation.
Starting this week, the Syrian regime, which now has control over much of the country, announced the closure of all schools, universities, and public places. Moreover, it has reduced working hours and encouraged more citizens to work from home to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of the time of writing this article, according to the regime, Syria is one of the few countries still not affected by the virus. However, an Ahram Online report published on Wednesday revealed that the opposing Syrian Observatory for Human Rights believes the number to be as high as 62 in areas controlled by the regime.
Over the course of the Syrian Civil War, the country lost much of its healthcare infrastructure, which, in the case of a pandemic, could prove disastrous. In rebel-controlled Idlib, in particular, humanitarians fear the spread of the coronavirus, as the city hosts at least three million displaced Syrian living in absolute poverty with little to no positions; these victims of violence are the most compromised if the virus makes its way to the northwestern Syrian rebel stronghold.
A consequential line divides reactions among Syrians; while some are panicking about the threats COVID-19 poses, others are completely indifferent about the coronavirus, preferring to direct their worrying towards day-to-day happenings such as the fact that the besieged Idlib could fall at any given moment, or that their children could sleep yet another night on empty stomachs.
Despite the dreariness of the situation, The National reports of light at the end of a long, dark tunnel; a number of Syrian NGOs are working “25/7” to prevent a coronavirus outbreak in Idlib.
Syrian aid workers spend their hours raising awareness about precautionary measures and disinfecting schools. They are fighting tooth and nail, but will that be enough? Idlib has a number of refugee camps that are packed full, with whole families sharing tents as small as four square meters. Many of these war victims are malnourished with weak immunity, and so an outbreak in Idlib could be a bomb waiting to explode if nothing changes.
One NGO working in three of Idlib’s camps is launching a paramedic training program to members of the community on how to deal with a pandemic of this measure.
As the COVID-19 global pandemic reaps 9,234th victim, one can only hope that these few organizations with a handful of volunteers can make enough difference and avert a tragedy.