Preparing for COVID-19 in Idlib, Syria

Nearly a million people have been uprooted in northwestern Syria in just the last few months, after fleeing the intense bombardment of the region by the Syrian government and its Russian allies. Many of these people have been displaced multiple times over the course of the war, now entering its tenth year. They have been forced to take refuge under plastic sheeting in the winter cold, with limited access to food, water, and medical care. These conditions make them especially vulnerable to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has adapted its regular medical activities in Idlib province so that we can continue to help displaced people while also guarding against the risks of infection from the new coronavirus. “People tended to gather in crowds around the [mobile clinic] trucks, but we told them it was important to keep their distance,” says Abdel Karim Mustafa, an MSF health promoter in Syria. Abdel’s team tries to encourage social distancing and sticks to the rule that people must stand six feet apart while in line. MSF is also helping vital medical facilities still operating in this war-torn area to strengthen infection prevention and control measures and prepare for COVID-19.