Humanitarian aid agency GOAL has today expressed concern for the war-torn population in Idlib Province in Northwestern Syria following confirmation of the first case of COVID-19 in the region.
GOAL said that news of a COVID-19 case comes as a major blow for the conflict-affected people living in densely populated and often unhygienic conditions in Idlib, with limited access to clean water, food and basic services.
It was confirmed late on Thursday that a doctor contracted the virus at a hospital in a town in Idlib Province, near the Turkish border. The doctor is reported to be self-isolating and the hospital has been closed.
GOAL is one of the biggest NGOs operating in Idlib Province, supporting more than 1.1 million displaced people in the region. Since March, GOAL has reached more than 800,000 displaced with vital COVID-19 messaging and provision of water, soap and hygiene kits.
GOAL Regional Director for the Middle East, Lorraine Marriott, said humanitarian aid groups have been hugely concerned about the risks of a coronavirus outbreak in Northwestern Syria.
She said: “The reality is that basic COVID-19 mitigation measures including social distancing, masks, and supply of soap and water are often not available to the huge numbers living in crowded camp conditions. These people, who have suffered so much over the last nine years of war, require humanitarian assistance more than ever at the moment to provide even the most basic needs.”
“If Idlib sees a serious COVID-19 outbreak there will be harrowing consequences for the already traumatised population, of whom over 1 million are Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Many have been repeatedly displaced as they tried to flee the conflict and have witnessed the slow destruction of their livelihoods and the basic infrastructure needed to maintain their families.”
She said news of the first COVID-19 case in Idlib comes on the July 10th deadline for the UN Security Council vote to ensure continued access to the four million residents of Idlib with life-saving humanitarian assistance.
“The consequences of a non-renewal of the resolution maintaining cross-border aid from Turkey to Syria will be disastrous as it will bring an already weakened system to its knees. The renewal is critical to allow for vital forms of assistance to cross into Idlib to reach almost 1.5 million people.”
Across Northwest Syria, GOAL teams provide lifesaving food, water and emergency response to approximately 1.1 million host communities and IDPs. GOAL, along with its key partners Ishan and Big Heart, provide water to one million people and monthly food supplies to almost 41,000 households.
Since March 2020, GOAL has supported communities across Northwest Syria with COVID-19 prevention information, including social distancing and infection control education, and the provision of PPE.