Rescue workers sterilise schools and help set up containment centres in Idlib


Hundreds of thousands of people are living in overcrowded tents in northwest Syria without adequate handwashing facilities and with no possibility of self isolation.


Thousands of people are living in the open, while more than 52,000 people are surviving without solid waste management. The impact of zero temperatures throughout the winter is still being felt as respiratory illnesses such as H1N1 remain high.


White Helmets volunteers have worked with other organisations to prepare three containment centres with a total of 60 hospital beds to boost the number of beds available in preparation of the likely COVID-19 outbreak. Medical supplies and beds are dangerously scarce after 61 medical facilities were bombed by Russian and regime forces since April.


Ibrahim al-Haj, White Helmets volunteer in Aleppo said:

“After all the death brought by warplanes and bombs, a new disaster — Coronavirus — is chasing Syrians here. Of course people are scared, but they have nowhere to escape to. It’s very overcrowded everywhere and people can’t just stay home or inside their tent. We are doing everything we can to be there for people and warn them of the new danger. There may be a ceasefire, but we are facing a whole new challenge.”


The White Helmets have started sterilising schools and crowded public spaces in Aleppo countryside and will reach more areas in northwest Syria in the coming days


Since the beginning of February, volunteers have conducted more than 328 awareness and guidance sessions around personal and public hygiene and distributed guidance brochures about protection methods, best practices, and social distancing.

The Syria Campaign’s Executive Director Laila Kiki* said:

“More than 3.5 million civilians are trapped in northwest Syria with bombed-out hospitals and very limited medical supplies. An outbreak of the Corona virus is just a matter of time and the number of people severely affected is likely to be devastating. In many cases three or four families are sharing one tent with poor sanitation and a shortage of clean water. Malnutrition in the camps means a higher risk of infection.


“The people of Idlib have suffered enough. There needs to be an urgent delivery of aid and medical supplies to the northwest and people in overcrowded camps must be allowed to return home without fear of bombing or detention.”


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*Laila Kiki uses a pseudonym for security purposes.