NORTHERN SYRIA/NEW YORK, OCTOBER 13, 2021—Northern Syria is experiencing its most severe wave of COVID-19 as the needs rapidly outpace already limited oxygen supplies and health facilities begin to run out of testing kits, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today. Support and protection for health care workers, provision of testing kits and oxygen, increased bed capacity in hospitals, and the expansion of vaccination coverage are urgently needed to prevent health care facilities in northwestern and northeastern Syria from totally collapsing under the weight of this new outbreak.
“We are directly witnessing the extent of this outbreak in the facilities we manage and support,” said Francisco Otero y Villar, MSF’s head of mission for Syria. “People in desperate need of oxygen or intensive care are stuck in queues because no beds or ventilators are available. [This] is leading to a higher mortality rate compared with previous [COVID-19] waves.”
In northwestern Syria, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 almost doubled in September, reaching nearly 73,000 cases compared to 39,000 recorded by the end of August. “The peak reached in this wave so far has been as high as 1,500 cases per day, while [previous waves] never exceeded 600 cases per day,” said Villar. “In Afrin [in Aleppo governorate in northwestern Syria], 44 percent of the patients currently admitted to a center supported by MSF are between 16 and 40 years old, indicating that even people who were previously thought to be relatively safe from severe illness caused by the virus are being seriously impacted.”