Covid-19 outbreak in northeast Syria leading to oxygen shortages

Covid-19 outbreak in northeast Syria leading to oxygen shortages: IRC
2 min read
29 April, 2021
An International Rescue Committee (IRC) regional director said: 'The health system is struggling to cope, and the situation is deteriorating extremely rapidly.'
Northeast Syria is facing soaring Covid-19 numbers [AFP/Getty-file photo]

A lack of critical Covid-19 supplies is placing northeast Syria's fight against the pandemic "in serious jeopardy", the International Rescue Committee (IRC) warned on Thursday.

The charity said there is a "severe shortage of testing supplies and oxygen" and a coronavirus laboratory in the city of Qamishli could run out of RNA extraction kits in a week.

This would prevent the lab, the only one run by the autonomous authorities in Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria from carrying out further tests.

The IRC said the effect on screening would be "devastating" and prevent proper analysis of the spread of the virus, just as Covid cases begin to soar.

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Misty Buswell, the IRC's Middle East and North Africa policy and advocacy director, said that the health system is in these areas is "struggling to cope, and the situation is deteriorating extremely rapidly".

According to the humanitarian organisation, northeast Syria has seen more than 5,300 new coronavirus cases this month - over half of 2020's current total.

At the same time, coronavirus treatment centres are also at risk.

The IRC said seven facilities closed in March due to insufficient funds and that six others are being threatened with the same fate.

The centres that remain are running out of beds, while the Deir ez-Zor region is seeing "an acute shortage" of O2 supplies.

One local hospital said it might be forced to close if diminishing stocks of medicines are not replaced.

Buswell said that the 100,000 vaccines promised to the northeast are insufficient and "will not be a silver bullet, they cannot get there soon enough2.

She added that 83 percent of those given "invasive ventilation" are dying and the IRC "fear[s] that things will only get worse".

Both the IRC and local health officials are asking for assistance, Buswell continued, repeating her organisation's appeal to the United Nations Security Council to reopen the Al-Yarubiyah border crossing with Iraq for UN agencies to provide desperately needed aid.

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