Dealing with Pandemics Inside Crammed Camps

For the Syrians living in crammed refugee camps, the pandemic has severely exacerbated the crisis.

A Syrian boy during coronavirus awareness workshop at a refugee camp in the city of Atme in Idlib governorate, northwest Syria (AFP / Aaref Watad)

ACTNews, SYRIA -“You want us to wash our hands?” one aid worker asked a Times reporter. “Some people can’t wash their kids for a week.” Northwest Syria is home to 2.7 million Syrian internally displaced people - half of them children and many living in crammed camps.

In March, when the coronavirus began to spread rapidly in the Middle East, humanitarian organizations in northwest Syria were already preparing for disaster. "Social restrictions are a fantasy in a camp," warned Kieren Barnes, Director of Mercy Corps.

Dealing with pandemic in evacuation sites is something of a nightmare. Apart from the dense population that makes it impossible for social restrictions, many IDPs do not have sufficient resources to survive in the camps. The number of vulnerable refugees has now increased dramatically due to the public health emergency.

Syria is facing an unprecedented hunger crisis, in which 9.3 million people are food insecure. The crisis is exacerbated by the pandemic. Though the outbreak is currently under control, it can still accelerate again, UN officials said.

The World Food Programme (WFP) told a briefing in Geneva that the number of people short of essential foodstuffs had risen by 1.4 million in the past six months. WFP spokesperson, Elisabeth Byrs, said the price of foodstuffs had also risen by more than 200 percent in less than a year due to the free fall in the neighboring Lebanon’s economy and the Covid-19 lockdown in Syria.

After nine years of conflict, over 90 percent of Syria's population lives under the $2 per day poverty line and humanitarian needs are growing, Akjemal Magtymova, the World Health Organization (WHO) Representative in Syria, stated on a separate occasion. Less than half of hospitals in Syria are operating.

In an effort to continuously help the people of Syria amid armed conflict and pandemic, Aksi Cepat Tanggap (ACT) continues to distribute aid. On Monday (31/8) and Tuesday (1/9), food distribution reached IDPs in Aqrabat, North Idlib. Firdaus Guritno of ACT’s Global Humanity Response reported that the recipients of the aid were the IDPs that will inhabit the briquette houses.

Syrian IDP children received food packages from ACT. (ACTNews)

"A total of 900 people benefitted from this food distribution. They are the future inhabitants of the briquette houses. The houses aren’t finished yet, so now the IDPs are still living in tents. They rely solely on humanitarian assistance," said Firdaus.

Apart from distributing food, ACT is also building to build 50 units of houses for the IDPs.  "ACT is also building briquette houses in the south of Aqrabat funded by the generosity of Indonesian donors. In the first phase, ACT has built 50 livable houses for Syrian IDPs in Salqin," concluded Firdaus. You can support our humanitarian programs in Syria by donating to BNI Syariah account number 66 0000 9009. []