Delta Variant Aggravates Syria's Conditions

The Delta variant of Covid-19 has been spreading among Syrian IDPs. Nearly half of the IDPs tested positive after undergoing PCR tests. Poverty has even made it difficult for them to buy masks to prevent the transmission of the virus.

Syrian IDPs. (AA/Muhammed Said)
Illustration. The Delta variant of Covid-19 spreads in Syrian IDPs. (AA/Muhammed Said)

ACTNews, SYRIA – The Covid-19 cases that have spread in every part of the world are also troubling IDPs in Syria. Based on data from the World Health Organization (WHO) as of Thursday (10/14/2021), in Syria, there are more than 37,000 positive cases of Covid-19. This number is also followed by death cases which reached more than 2,000 cases.

Cases of Covid-19 have spiked in rebel-held northwestern Syria over the past month, as health workers warn that the Delta variant is spreading fast with few preventive measures in place to stem the spread. This is exacerbated because measures to prevent the spread of the virus are not optimal.

Most new cases have been concentrated in the cities of Salqin and Harem, in the western Idlib province, where the number of reported cases has multiplied by 14 in a month, according to local medical organizations. On Friday (10/1/2021), the Assistance Coordination Unit, a medical NGO monitoring coronavirus cases, reported 1,417 new cases. This is a record in the region, which has a population of around four million people, many of whom have been internally displaced by the decade-long war.

The Idlib province, which has been under opposition control since 2015, faces major challenges as many hospitals and health facilities have been damaged by attacks.

In June, a hospital in the city of Afrin was targeted, killing at least 18 people, including four hospital employees. In March, a pro-government attack put the Atareb hospital, which served the entire rural population of western Aleppo - around 120,000 people - out of service.

Meanwhile, nearly a million internally displaced people (IDPs) live in crowded camps near the Syrian-Turkish border in northern Idlib that lack basic services, including water, adding to the pressure on measures to limit the spread of Covid-19. As a result, between 40 and 50 percent of PCR tests administered in the area have come back positive since mid-August, WHO told MEE.

Cases have been reported in children as young as three years old, and patients are overwhelming Covid-19 wards. 

“Cases are increasing, deaths happen daily, and some cases are young. Most of the cases are unvaccinated,” Farouk Kishkish, a medical director for Salqin Hospital, told Middle East Eye.

Rama Saifo, another young woman living in Idlib, said a lack of information, as well as widespread poverty, affected the application of some measures.

“Awareness campaigns are limited to some organizations’ Facebook posts,” she told MEE. “The situation of most people, including the displaced, is difficult, so many avoid buying masks,” said Saifo.

For Saifo and many other civilians in northern Syria, the best solution to the ongoing crisis is the vaccine. The slow pace of vaccination, however, has many worried that the recent spike in cases will only further grow in the coming weeks.[]