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Thursday 26 March 2020

To the UN and WHO on Coronavirus in Syria

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The imminent threat of Covid-19 outbreaks in IDP camps, Syria

Mr. António Guterres, UN Secretary-General
Mr. Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General
Mr. Kevin Kennedy, UN Assistant Secretary-General, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Syria Crisis
Dr Jorge Martinez, World Health Organization Health Cluster Coordinator
Dr Mahmoud Daher, World Health Organization, Emergency Health Coordinator

We, the undersigned Syrian and international organisations are writing to you to express our grave concern over the dire situation of the IDP camps in the north of Syria especially in the current Covid-19 pandemic. These camps are estimated to host more than one million displaced Syrians in overcrowded tents, with up to 35 people sharing a tent; lacking basic needs, such as sanitation, running water, safe food preparation facilities, and medical facilities.

Countries across the world are taking extreme measures to curb the spread of the virus. Basic measures recommended by the WHO to halt contagion such as frequent, thorough handwashing, using hand sanitisers, catching coughs and sneezes in a tissue, social-distancing, and self -isolation for symptomatic individuals are all impossible for Syrians living in IDP camps. Furthermore, there is no access to basic medical care, let alone, intensive care facilities for those who develop acute respiratory distress or need ventilatory support. Existing remote medical facilities lack the ability to test for Covid-19, lack trained medical staff, and protective equipment for healthcare workers.

The WHO & UNHCR currently provide healthcare and camp supplies to the north west of Syria and must act NOW to ensure the safety and protection of displaced Syrians from the expected outbreak of Covid19 in the camps. We call on the you to urgently mobilise resources to ensure the provision of:

  • Running water and soap in proximity to tents. Expanding living spaces and reducing overcrowding by supplying a sufficient number of tents to house displaced families
  • Increasing the capacity and proximity of medical facilities by increasing the number of sites, staff, Covid-19 testing kits, intensive care facilities, and ventilation support equipment such as oxygen support and ventilators.
  • Training healthcare workers and providing necessary personal protective equipment

Multiple human rights and humanitarian aid organisations have predicted that an outbreak of Covid- 19 in refugee camps, usually much better equipped than the IDP camps in the north of Syria, will have devastating effects and much higher mortality rates than in other settings.

We therefore call on you to act with the highest levels of urgency.

Assaad Al Achi, Baytna, Belgium
Salma Kahale, Dawlaty, Belgium
Valerie Hughes, Irish Syria Solidarity Movement, Ireland
Hamish de Bretton Gordon, Doctors Under Fire, UK
Isam Khatib, Kesh Malek, Turkey
Fadi Dayoub, Local Development and Small-Projects Support (LDSPS), Turkey
Marjolein Wijninckx, PAX for Peace, The Netherlands
Hayma Alyousfi, Shaml Syrian CSOs Coalition, Turkey
Fatima Obayan, Souryana Al Amal, Syria
Mohammad Dibo, Syria Untold, Germany
Batool Abdulkareem, Syria Solidarity UK
Rula Asad, Syrian Female Journalist Network, The Netherlands
Fadel Abdul Ghany, Syrian Network for Human Rights, UK
Aula Abbara, Syrian Public Health Network, UK