Dallas, Texas- On July 7, a 39 year old doctor working in north western Syria was tested for COVID-19 and was confirmed positive today. This is the first reported case of COVID-19 in north western Syria. The doctor entered Syria two weeks ago and visited his wife in Al Bab city (Aleppo Governate) between June 30 and July 1. The doctor immediately isolated himself upon symptoms, and contract-tracing procedures have been put in place for his interactions. Bab Al Hawa Hospital, in which he worked has prohibited entry and exit, and has performed a complete quarantine of all doctor's housing units. All medical staff are taking preventative measures and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). Screening and monitoring mechanisms have been activated in the surrounding medical facilities.
The medical system in north western Syria does not have the capacity to cope with the influx. The UN reports that there are 4,178,480 people in north western Syria, living in densely populated conditions with little access to healthcare. In Idlib, (pop. 3.5+ million) there are under 300 ICU beds and a limited number of ventilators. The majority of the ventilators are currently in use and not available to treat COVID-19. In North Western Syria there is currently only one PCR Lab. In the past 12 months alone, 85 medical facilities have been attacked and most are currently not functional. The medical infrastructure cannot handle the existing population needs let alone a wide spread pandemic. Medical staff suffer from a shortage of masks, gloves, gowns, disinfectant, thermal scanners and other medical supplies.
Years of war and malnutrition have left many people’s immune systems compromised and the entire population susceptible to drastically higher mortality rates. It is predicted that the transmission rates will be dramatically higher than global averages due to densely populated internal displacement camps and multiple families living in the same dwelling.
Dr. Khaula Sawah, Vice President of UOSSM USA said, "The news of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in northern Syria is deeply distressing. There are are less than 300 ICU beds and the majority of adult ventilators are already in use with a population of over 4 million people. Medical supplies, PPE and testing are limited. The international community must take immediate action by supporting the area with equipment/supplies needed in case of a widespread outbreak. Northwest Syria is already suffering from a major humanitarian crisis, the failure to extend the UN cross-border resolution could be catastrophic especially now that COVID-19 has made its way into Northwest Syria."
- UOSSM’s mobile clinics have made it a top priority to visit communities and educate the population on social distancing, hygiene practices and steps if people are symptomatic.
- UOSSM has nurse/staff in front of medical facilities to screen patients and direct them to the right area.
- UOSSM has asked all health workers to attend the WHO online course “Introduction to Emerging Respiratory Viruses, Including Novel Coronavirus”.
- UOSSM’s technical team has trained all health workers in UOSSM PHC centers on the detection of suspected cases, handling of cases, referral of cases, and reporting.
- UOSSM is working in close collaboration with the Idlib Health Directorate to implement a ‘COVID-19 Response Plan’.