Syria at risk of health crisis amid Covid shortages

Syria at risk of new health crisis amid Covid surge and supply shortages
2 min read
30 April, 2021
The suspension of Covid tests means health officials would no longer able to track the spread of the disease.
A shortage of testing supplies and oxygen is putting Syria's Covid-19 response in jeopardy [Getty]

The United Nations and humanitarian organisations have warned that an accelerating wave of coronavirus cases, coupled with a severe shortage in equipment, is putting war-torn Syria at risk of a new health crisis. 

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) warned on Thursday that the Kurdish-ruled region of north-eastern Syria will run out of Covid-19 testing equipment in a week, after a surge in cases. 

Syria has been through 10 years of war that devastated its infrastructure, economy and healthcare systems - a situation that will be made worse if testing stops, the IRC said.

The suspension of Covid tests would leave health officials unable to track the spread of the disease. Over 5,300 cases have been confirmed in north-eastern Syria in April alone, more than half of the total for the whole of 2020.

Mark Lowcock, the head of the UN’s humanitarian affairs office, said the number of new cases in parts of Syria under the control of  Bashar al-Assad’s had doubled between February and March.

Read also: Most British women in NE Syria are trafficking victims - NGO

COVID treatment Facilities in the north-east have also become overstretched, while seven were forced to cease operating in March due to a lack of funding. 

“Testing capacity in the northeast has never been sufficient, and now it may be lost altogether,” Misty Buswell, Policy and Advocacy Director for the IRC in the Middle East and North Africa, said in a statement.


To date, only 41,500 tests have been carried out in the region, which is controlled by Kurdish-led forces. Should the lab in Qamishli, the main city in the area no longer able to test, the ability to control the spread of the virus in northeast Syria would be seriously compromised, Buswell said.

Less than 100,000 doses have been allocated to the northeast of Syria, far too few to cover all frontline health workers and those most at risk in the region. The IRC made an urgent appeal for funding and called on the UN Security Council to reauthorise aid throught the Yarubiyah border crossing so that UN agencies can support the Covid-19 response.

Syria is one of the 92 countries eligible for advance market distribution of vaccines under the UN-backed COVAX initiative. More than 250,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine arrived in Syria this month under COVAX to inoculate the country’s frontline health workers.     

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