Dallas, Texas- This weekend the Syrian Government reported their first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Damascus (not including Northern Syria). UOSSM projects a significantly higher number of cases that have gone unreported. Over 80% of the medical infrastructure in Syria is operating at a limited capacity and COVID-19 testing kits are extremely inaccessible.
UOSSM predicts a parabolic jump of cases in North Western Syria in the next two weeks. The medical system definitively 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 201 ICU beds and only 95 ventilators. 100% of the ventilators are currently in use and not available to treat COVID-19 patients. 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 IDP camps and multiple families living in the same dwelling.
Dr. Khaula Sawah, Vice President of UOSSM USA said, “ Even though there is only one confirmed case this does not reflect the actual number of active cases in Syria. There have been reports of people who are sick with symptoms similar to COVID-19 however there is very limited laboratory diagnostic capacity to confirm. According to WHO and based on the current epidemiological situation in the region with the rapid spread of cases in neighboring countries, including Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, WHO considers the overall risk for Syria to be very high. Considering the disrupted and fragile health system, the risk of the spread of diseases is high in Aleppo and Idleb governorates.
It is terrifying to think about what will happen if this spreads to areas of displacement, as millions are living in densely populated areas with no option for social distancing, limited access to soap, clean water, medical supplies, and a major shortage of ICU beds and ventilators. I fear the death toll could be catastrophic.”
UOSSM 's response and preparedness plan for Covid-19 as follows:
- 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’. A few days ago, the Idlib Health Directorate announced the opening of an epidemic surveillance laboratory to carry out PCR tests to identify COVID-19 (testing kits currently unavailable).