Torn between a rock and hard place

The corona virus has spread in recent months rapidly and without stopping for any borders or for any race or peoples, leading to worries that the most vulnerable around the world will be left to their own devices in trying to protect themselves. Inside Syria, some of the most vulnerable are to be found in the refugee camps and include women and children. 

Photo Credit Ivan Llop Huete/

Corona virus in Refugee camps

These camps, within the confines of war torn Syria, are home on a temporary basis to some of the most at risk people and there have been fears in the international communirty that the corona virus would spread like wild fire there in a short space of time. Only recently, a case was reported in a camp near the Turkish borders, but a wait-and-see approach is now in place as to what will happen next. 

It was a region in the north-west of Syria which is largely held by rebel forces which confirmed its very first case of Covid-19 last month, raising fears that there could be a tragic outbreak of the disease in the crowded camps which are holding the displaced men women and children of Syria. 

Photo Credit Ivan Llop Huete/

The person who contracted the virus was a doctor at one of the hospitals in the town of Idlib, which is located near the border with Turkey, according to aid groups. For some months now, the aid groups have made stark warnings about the dangers of an outbreak of the virus happening in this area of Syria. 

It was merely in 2019 when the Syrian government launched an offensive to take back the town of Idlib, which stands as the very last opposition-held area in the country, from the jihadist forces.

Close on a million people have escaped from their homes in the area since December of last year, with a lot of them now staying in refugee camps which are overcrowded and have insufficient healthcare facilities and a shortage of clean water. 

Photo Credit Ivan Llop Huete/

Fear and deportation

Given the conditions they face, there are concerns that the virus will spread very quickly through these at risk peoples, putting an added strain on a healthcare system which is already creaking at the seams. In the region of six million people are thought to be displaced within the borders of Syria, where the civil war erupted almost ten years ago. A very delicate ceasefire is in place at the moment in Idlib. The well known international charity ‘Save the Children’ says that there has to be a credible chance for the current truce to hold if there is to be any chance of keeping the virus from spreading.

The country as a whole has officially recorded 372 cases of Covid 19, with a total of 14 deaths, according to the John Hopkins University in the United States, which is keeping a close eye on how the pandemic is developing. It is very fortunate that so far, few cases have been announced in the refugee camps thus far, but there is a chance that many more cases could be going without being detected.

The other fear of Syrians is the deportation, it might happen if they test positive for corona virus.

Lockdown and income

It is estimated that there are one and a half million refugees from Syria now staying in Lebanon, and all of these camps are in crowded, do it yourself camps and living hand to mouth with the similarly poor communities of their host country.

Despite the fact that a lockdown was quick in being implemented and has been for the most part a success in controlling the disease, the economy of Lebanon was already in a bad way, with the rate of unemployment surging and the health service finding it hard to buy medicine or equipment. 

The main problem that the large refugee community is facing is that the basic social distancing, self- isolation, and careful and frequent handwashing are almost impossible in the areas where a lot of the refugees are residing. So a network of good Samaritans are handing out hygiene kits to the families who are most vulnerable in an effort to stop the spread of corona virus. 

Another challenge facing the homeless families is the threat of losing their income as a result of the lockdown measures that have been taken. At present, there is a spiral effect in play: they are now going without food, plunging even more into debt, or a mixture of the two. There are fears that this could get worse. Meantime the world is watching as Syrian refugees try the hard balancing act of trying to survive amidst the civil war stricken country and worrying about an eruption of the Covid-19. 

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