Access to medical supplies is important during a conflict and more so when that is coupled with the spread of a deadly pandemic. In Syria, ordinary citizens are struggling with the consequences of the longest conflict and now the spread of Covid-19, a virus that attacks the respiratory system, causing death in some cases. Raising the red flag last week, the World Health Organization cautioned the UN Security Council that the coronavirus pandemic could have a “catastrophic impact” on Syria. Shortages of medicines and supplies, the UN health agency said, could trigger a major health crisis for up to 2.1 million people in the northeastern part of the country.
Without doubt, years of conflict has decimated Syria’s infrastructure and social services, including the healthcare system. Nine years of uninterrupted war has resulted in massive humanitarian needs and left the population vulnerable to a Covid-19 outbreak. While Syria may have assigned itself to the position of a footnote in a long list of world crises, it still remains one of the most crucial humanitarian issues that, coupled with the spread of coronavirus, can have catastrophic impact on the entire region The threat of coronavirus and the restricted medical supplies may have temporarily brought the crisis to the fore but if it is ignored now, it will come back to haunt the global community and the regime in Syria that perhaps is busy covering the impact of Covid-19.
Ravaged by war, the country’s limited healthcare system is in no position to deal with a large-scale outbreak. The best option for the Bashar al-Assad Regime is to allow the free flow of humanitarian and medical assistance. This may also be the final opportunity for the global community, a silent spectator to the slaughter, to intervene and extend meaningful help to a population that has suffered in silence for too long.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2020.
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