COVID-19 aggravates hardship of population in North-East Syria

Two men are in front of a building in Aleppo, collecting daily bread relief  Two men are in front of a building in Aleppo, collecting daily bread relief People in Need

21 May 2020

Northeast Syria faces persisting food, water, health, and economic difficulties on top of COVID-19 pandemic

On May 21, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) drew attention to the increasingly difficult situation in northeast Syria. A week before, a coalition of over 100 Non Governmental Organizations also issued a similar statement.

The situation in northeast Syria is dire: out of the estimated 2.2. million people, 64% require humanitarian assistance. The population in northeast Syria is now facing accumulating difficulties, including water, food and medicine shortages, as well as a lack of basic hygiene and healthcare services. In addition, the Syrian Pound has depreciated with a record breaking 54 percent, severely impacting the purchasing power of local communities. The World Food Programme estimated that food insecurity has soared from 7.9 million to 9.3 million. Karim Mahmoud, head of ICRC’s Hassakeh office, said: “For millions of people in northeast Syria, consequences of fighting, shortages of water, food and medicine, a lack of electricity, the economic downturn with job losses and price hikes are as much of a worry as coronavirus, arguably even more so right now”.

The ICRC, together with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent, is distributing a.o. food parcels, vegetable growing kits and clean water tanks to meet the most pressing needs. Additionally, they launched several field hospitals and a COVID-19 isolation centre in Al Hol Camp, home to over 55,000 people. Still, with the lingering threat of a COVID-19 outbreak amidst a densely populated camp, the need for medical assistance remains huge.

Unfortunately, in January 2020 the UN Council eliminated two pathways into Syria, amongst which the Al Yarubiya (Iraq) cross point. An estimated 40 percent of all medical aid transmitted to northeastern Syria used to pass through here. The US, the UK and France advocate for its reopening, while China and Russia have repeatedly vetoed against this. Due to  the increasing medical shortages, fragile healthcare system and deteriorating economic conditions in northeast Syria, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned: "If viable alternatives to Al-Yarubiah are not found for medical items, the gap between the humanitarian response and humanitarian needs will increase".  


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Author: Roos Middelkoop

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