FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 24, 2020
BREAKING: Syria Reports First Case of COVID-19, UOSSM Expects Parabolic Jump In Cases
Dallas, Texas- This weekend the Syrian Government reported their first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Damascus (not including Northern Syria). UOSSM projects a significantly higher number of cases that have gone unreported. Over 80% of the medical infrastructure in Syria is operating at a limited capacity and COVID-19 testing kits are extremely inaccessible.
UOSSM predicts a parabolic jump of cases in North Western Syria in the next two weeks. The medical system definitively does not have the capacity to cope with the influx. The UN reports that there are 4,178,480 people in North Western Syria, living in densely populated conditions with little access to healthcare. In Idlib (pop. 3.5+ million) there are 201 ICU beds and only 95 ventilators. 100% of the ventilators are currently in use and not available to treat COVID-19 patients. In North Western Syria there is currently only one PCR Lab. In the past 12 months alone, 85 medical facilities have been attacked and most are currently not functional. The medical infrastructure cannot handle the existing population needs let alone a wide spread pandemic. Medical staff suffer from a shortage of masks, gloves, gowns, disinfectant, thermal scanners and other medical supplies.
Years of war and malnutrition have left many people’s immune systems compromised and the entire population susceptible to drastically higher mortality rates. It is predicted that the transmission rates will be dramatically higher than global averages due to densely populated IDP camps and multiple families living in the same dwelling.
Dr. Khaula Sawah, Vice President of UOSSM USA said, “ Even though there is only one confirmed case this does not reflect the actual number of active cases in Syria. There have been reports of people who are sick with symptoms similar to COVID-19 however there is very limited laboratory diagnostic capacity to confirm. According to WHO and based on the current epidemiological situation in the region with the rapid spread of cases in neighboring countries, including Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, WHO considers the overall risk for Syria to be very high. Considering the disrupted and fragile health system, the risk of the spread of diseases is high in Aleppo and Idleb governorates.
It is terrifying to think about what will happen if this spreads to areas of displacement, as millions are living in densely populated areas with no option for social distancing, limited access to soap, clean water, medical supplies, and a major shortage of ICU beds and ventilators. I fear the death toll could be catastrophic.”
UOSSM ‘s response and preparedness plan for Covid-19 as follows:
UOSSM’s mobile clinics have made it a top priority to visit communities and educate the population on social distancing, hygiene practices and steps if people are symptomatic.
UOSSM has nurse/staff in front of medical facilities to screen patients and direct them to the right area.
UOSSM has asked all health workers to attend the WHO online course “Introduction to Emerging Respiratory Viruses, Including Novel Coronavirus”.
UOSSM’s technical team has trained all health workers in UOSSM PHC centers on the detection of suspected cases, handling of cases, referral of cases, and reporting.
UOSSM is working in close collaboration with the Idlib Health Directorate to implement a ‘COVID-19 Response Plan’. A few days ago, the Idlib Health Directorate announced the opening of an epidemic surveillance laboratory to carry out PCR tests to identify COVID-19 (testing kits currently unavailable).
February 2020 Activities and Updates from UOSSM USA
February was an especially brutal month in Idlib, Syria, as the humanitarian disaster continued. Hundreds of thousands were displaced, schools were bombed, hospitals and medical facilities were targeted, medical staff and doctors were killed. Hundreds of thousands continued to flee the violence and bombardment, with an estimated 500,000 children. There are shortages of medical and humanitarian supplies as people continue to live in cold temperatures with inadequate shelter. UOSSM USA launched the fundraising campaign, “Idlib is Burning” to provide emergency and life-saving medical care to those who need it most.
Collaborative Efforts to Prevent Malnutrition in Syria after Waves of Mass Displacement
In response to the humanitarian catastrophe, with over 948,000 people newly displaced including 500,000 children, UOSSM USA, in collaboration with UOSSM Turkey, provided food supplies to over 3000 families over January and February 2020. Thanks to our supporters, 3000 families were provided with food kits, preventing malnutrition. This initiative is a proactive measure to prevent the spread of malnutrition and is part of the UOSSM Nutrition Program. This will be an ongoing effort to continue preventing malnutrition for the displaced in northern Syria.
UOSSM’s Mental Health & Psychosocial Support Center Offers Social Activities for Child Integration into Society
In an initiative to increase the social inclusion of children into society, the UOSSM Mental Health & Psychosocial Support Center in Reyhanli, Turkey offered several activities for Syrian and Turkish children. The activities focused on eliminating violence and bullying in schools, raising awareness among children on negative feelings occurring as a result of violence and bullying, and approaches to dealing with negative feelings in these situations.
UOSSM Representative Visits Bangladesh to Meet with Partners and Conduct a Study on Potential Projects
Dr. Ahmad Dbais represented UOSSM in a visit to Bangladesh to analyze the medical humanitarian situation. In addition, he met with partners for the establishment of potential projects based on the humanitarian situation in the area.
Impact- How Omar Overcame Difficulties and Walked Again
Omar was playing outside with friends, suddenly there was an airstrike. All of a sudden, his whole world changed. Omar was severely wounded and was transported to a hospital in Turkey. He spent four months in intensive care. The doctors tried, but could not save his legs. The damage was too extensive. Omar had to have both legs amputated.
Omar was so sad, he just wanted to be able to play with his friends and have a normal life without feeling so helpless. Omar started visiting UOSSM’s Physiotherapy Center in Turkey. First, he had to go through rigorous strength training, finally he was fitted with prosthetic legs. He learned how to balance himself and walk all over again. Omar was so determined and was able to walk again on his own in a matter of weeks! Thanks to our supporters who help children like Omar walk again. Together, we are saving lives and building hope.
Since 2012, UOSSM has been providing emergency medical relief and healthcare services to the Syrian people affected by the crisis, working primarily inside Syria and with Syrian refugees in Turkey.