Update: COVID-19 in Syria

The hospitals are full. There are not nearly enough testing locations.

Five months after the first case of COVID-19 in Syria, there are officially only 3,171 confirmed cases of the virus, according to the Syrian Arab News Agency. Of those, 730 recovered and 134 died.

Officially.

In truth, the problem in Syria is much bigger. So big that the Middle East Institute (a non-partisan think tank and cultural research centre based in Washington) said in early September that Syria is facing a COVID-19 catastrophe.

Elias* is an Open Doors staff member in the region. “The numbers of infected people and fatalities in Syria are higher,” he says. “The hospitals are full of patients. Recently the deputy director of Health for Damascus said that in Damascus alone there are over 110.000 persons infected.”

The Middle East Institute confirmed the assertion. They reported in August “A worrying rise in daily deaths and infections, especially in Damascus, has left Syria facing what could be its biggest challenge yet.”

Open Doors is working to help prevent further spread. Elias tells how they are working through some local churches in Syria distributing hygiene kits. “They consist of protective masks, sanitizer, vitamin pills and paracetamol.”

Libyan Christians need protection (2)

This is just the latest in the series of disasters facing Syria. The civil war began almost ten years ago, causing the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives and a displacement of about half of the population. The war and subsequent international boycott of the country also led to a economic crisis, pushing many more people into poverty.

As a result, the health system in Syria is badly affected. Elias says, “It is very difficult in Syria to get tested if one is infected. The number of testing facilities is too small. Where people are tested, it is impossible to maintain sufficient distance to the other persons who come for a test.”

As the hospitals are full of COVID-19 patients, the virus has spread also among the staff of the hospitals, according to Elias, “Five doctors have died of COVID-19 in Aleppo, three of them were Christians.” An anonymous worker of a government-hospital said that there is a dangerous shortage of medical supplies, testing and personal protective equipment, as well as overcrowding in some hospitals in cities like Damascus, Aleppo and Homs.

US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated in early September, “Syrian authorities are failing to protect health workers at the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic in government-held territory...the country is overwhelmed, with hospitals beyond capacity, health workers facing serious shortages of personal protective equipment, and with many of their colleagues and relatives dying after suffering COVID-19 symptoms.”

*Pseudonym used.

will you pray for syria?

- Pray for the church leaders in Syria to be given wisdom in how to best minister to believers during this time

- Pray for the Syrian government to choose transparency and openness in dealing with the pandemic

- Pray for Open Doors workers and partners in Syria to be able to distribute as many hygiene kits as possible.

Learn how you can help bring hope to the Middle East:

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Learn more about the Syrian church

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