What if Coronavirus Hits Northern Syria, UN Warns

The U.N. has demanded an immediate ceasefire in northern Syria, so civil organizations can deal with a possible coronavirus outbreak in that region and especially in Idlib, the home of 4 million people, where most of the citizens are forcibly displaced by the Assad regime from their own cities and villages all over Syria in the past years.

On March 27, the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres called on a complete and immediate ceasefire all over Syria according to the U.N. resolution 2254, for exerting more efforts to combat the novel virus Covid-19.

The Secretary General demanded from all the conflicting parties in Syrian to support his call made last Monday for an urgent ceasefire in the armed conflict areas, and the need to devote themselves in fighting the virus, the statement read.

The U.N. Special Envoy to Syria, Geir Pedersen stressed that he would be open to work with all the players in Syria and with the major countries, that could support to increase the efforts against the coronavirus, and ensuring the continuation of a ceasefire.

The U.N. resolution 2254 from December 18, 2015, calls on all parties to stop the attacks against civilians and urges to reach a ceasefire.

It also demands the U.N. to bring the two sides together for negotiations, conducting free and fair elections under U.N. supervision to achieve a political solution.

As of March 27, 530,000 people have been infected worldwide, 23,700 of them have died, while more than 122,000 have been cured.

On March 22, the Syrian regime declared the first infection with the Coronavirus in Syria.

Health care authorities officially declared to have a few infections in Syria. However, medical sources in the areas controlled by Assad say that the numbers of cases are much higher and that one (additional) fatality was recorded. In the Syrian north, where fierce battles take place between Assad forces backed by Iranian militias and Russian troops on the one side, and Syrian opposition factions backed by Turkish troops on the other side, no infections were reported so far.

The former U.S. ambassador to Syria Robert Ford warns of a Coronavirus outbreak in north Syria and horrible consequences, if the pandemic hits the region, according to the news service Asharq al-Awsat.

Ford described the situation of Idlib’s residents as very miserable, as most of them live in one tent together with many other families. This crowding situation would help spreading the virus, especially since the weather there is bitterly cold.

“And this is apart from the lack of clean water sources, which paves the way for the virus to infect many displaced people, and of course, there aren’t many clinics or hospitals due to the constant air bombardment by the Syrian and Russian Air Force, targeting dozens of medical centers during the last offensive,” Ford said, adding that media like the New York Times and many NGOs working in Idlib said there is no equipment of any kind to help combatting a possible Coronavirus outbreak.

“A doctor from Idlib told the New York Times that he had personally seen patients showing symptoms of Covid-19, but no testing equipment was available. The WHO has pledged to send the needed supplies and equipment to Idlib within this week,” Ford pointed out.

The Health Directorate in Idlib, a part of the Syrian Interim Government, announced its intention to provide 60 beds in three hospitals for people infected with Covid-19, according to Ford, but this would be a too small number, compared to the population in the province. Idlib would need lots and lots of beds, facilities and health care providers.

“Doctors in Idlib have warned that the catastrophe is approaching,” the former ambassador said, noting that he did not mentioned the consequences of targeting those few hospitals or medical facilities by Russian and Syrian Air Force.

Ford believes that Damascus misuses the bailouts of the U.N. sent for war-affected people: The Syrian government has a bad record of misusing medical supplies and equipment. It does not use them for the benefit of civilians, but for the benefit of the intelligence service.

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