- As many 100,000 people could die from the coronavirus in Syria’s Idlib region in the northwest of the country, health officials say.
- While no cases have been confirmed, testing has been limited. Some doctors believe the virus is already spreading fast in makeshift camps in the region.
- Idlib is the last opposition-held territory. Some 3 million people live there, many displaced from the 9 years of conflict.
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Health officials in Syria’s embattled Idlib region say a coronavirus outbreak could kill as many as 100,000 there, CBS News reported.
Doctors in the region are begging for support for its roughly 3 million people, who lack the supplies and resources to handle an outbreak. Hundreds of thousands living in the last opposition-held area have fled bombing and assaults, as the civil unrest wages through its ninth year.
Many live in makeshift homes in tightly packed camps and are unable to self-isolate. The conditions are ideal for a virus to spread.
Ihsan Eidy, a doctor in the region told CBS News: “If you advise a person who got infected to isolate himself in a room and [say] don’t be in touch with other family members, how could he do this if he is living in one tent with 10 members of the family? It is impossible.”
Earlier this week, only 166 people in Idlib had been tested for the coronavirus. While there have not been any positive cases yet, Eidy worried that it is only a matter of time.
Syrian doctors told The New York Times last month that the virus is probably already rampant in the settlement camps. They said there were many people who died or are sick with symptoms that match COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
“We currently have cases that are similar, and we’ve had people die,” Mohamed Ghaleb Tennari, who manages the Syrian American Medical Society’s hospitals in the region told the Times.
“But unfortunately because we don’t have the test, we can’t confirm that these cases are truly corona or not.”
There have been 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in areas control by President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime. Two people have died, CBS reported.
However, according to the Times, as of mid-March the opposition-controlled area in the northwest of the country had yet to receive any coronavirus testing kits from the World Health Organization. According to Al Jazeera, the region only had one machine to run the coronavirus test as of April 14.
As of April 16, CBS reported that WHO has sent 5,000 COVID-19 tests to the province.
“We need deeds not words. We need ventilators, we need these centers which WHO promised; they promised 298 centers to isolate people. They also promised three ICUs,” Eidy told CBS News.
Health workers have yet to get any personal protective equipment, according to CBS.
On an even more basic level, people in the region lack access to water.
“You want us to wash our hands?” Fadi Mesaher, the Idlib director for the Maram Foundation for Relief and Development told the Times. “Some people can’t wash their kids for a week. They are living outdoors.”