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WHO allocates $35 million to fight COVID-19 in Northern Syria, but Syrian Interim Government denies receiving money

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Editing: Jaffar Al-aga |
TranslationEditor: Glory Jabr |
Translation: Muhammad Ghaith

Syria - SMART

The international community tries hard to fight coronavirus (COVID-19), as its attention turns towards the countries whose health systems pass a state of revival. The World Health Organization allocated $35 million to fight COVID-19 in Northern Syria; however, the Syrian Interim Government denied receiving any single penny.

Syrian Interim Government: "We received no money"

Mahmoud Daher, head of WHO operations in Northwestern Syria, said in an interview with Sputnik, “A comprehensive preparedness and response plan has been launched, with an estimated budget of $35 million to support eight technical areas, led by a 15-member Task Force. This plan is aligned with the WHO Global 2019 Novel Coronavirus Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan, but tailored to the context in northwestern Syria.”

Daher added that there is an overall lack of medical capacities, such as isolation units, intensive care unit beds, infection control material, personal protection equipment and adequately trained staff, to address the threat of a potential outbreak in the area.

Daher added, "There are 306 functional health facilities in the northwest [of Syria], managed by 57 health partners. The total number of ventilators available is 203 and ICU beds are 347, including those in hospitals supported by Turkey. The number of health workers in the northwest, per population of 10,000 is only eight, far below the minimum international standard."

The Syrian Interim Government said that it will not receive any penny from the WHO’s money to face COVID-19 in Northwestern Syria. 

Maram al-Sheikh, the Syrian Interim Government’s Health Minister stated to SMART that the sum is already divided among planned activities that organizations operating in the area will conduct, in addition to prioritized medical equipment that the organizations will purchase to protect medical staff in particular and civilians in general against COVID-19. 

Al-Sheikh added that the plan prioritizes covering shortage of respirators and intensive care equipment in hospitals and other sections of hospitals, establishing quarantine centers, launching awareness campaigns, establishing medical and sterilization checkpoints at crossings, and training staff.

Al-Sheikh said that the National Response Team against COVID-19 implements the WHO’s emergency plan to face COVID-19. Al-Sheikh noted that the team receives no support.

Al-Sheikh noted that the aim of the Response Team is to unify all efforts against the virus, putting plans and giving recommendations and instruction to all workers in this field. He mentioned that the Team included ten groups to cover all activities related to fighting the disease.

Al-Sheikh added that each group includes a coordinator to prepare reports about the group’s activities, to evaluate the needs, and to put recommendations, and coordination mechanisms between all sectors in order to achieve the plan among all groups.  

Al-Sheikh mentioned that the team supports the WHO plan and suggests recommendations to achieve the plan, adding that no funding is available for the Response Team, but for the WHO plan.

Al-Sheikh noted that the Response Team is formed on the level of the Health Ministry which in turn will be in touch and direct contact with groups from the rest of ministries to prepare reports and recommendations.

Syrian government forces assault people who violate curfew

On Saturday night, the Syrian government’s Health Ministry registered five new cases of recovery from COVID-19, bringing the total of people who recovered to 11.

The ministry posted a statement on social media saying that the total of cases of COVID-19 in Syria has reached 42 so far, including 11 cases of recovery and three deaths. 

The Syrian government’s police assaulted shops’ owners in the city of Hama, Central Syria, for violating curfew imposed as a precautionary procedure against COVID-19 .

A local source reported to SMART that shops’ owners in the Ibin Rushud market agreed to open their shops despite the curfew due to poor economic conditions, but police members assaulted the owners of the open shops. The police members smashed the shops, fined the owners by 35,000 Syrian pounds, and forced them to close the shops.

One of the shops’ owners reported to SMART that the Syrian government had appointed two days per week for each one of the shops’ owners to open. The owner noted that these two days are not enough to provide for basic needs, amidst expensiveness, the lack of another source of income, and high shops’ rents.

The owner added that he pays 200,000 SYP per month as rent. The owner added that he has to pay for two months now due to accumulated rent as a result of the curfew. The owner said that allowing him to open his shop for two days is not enough for him to make up his loss, which pushed him to agree with other colleagues to open their shops despite the curfew.

Iran registers 60 new deaths from COVID-19

On Sunday, the Iranian Health Ministry registered 60 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the total of deaths to 5,710. 

Kianoush Jahanpour, the spokesperson for the ministry stated that Iran registered 1,153 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, bringing the total of the infected people to 90,481. Jahanpour added that the total of people who recovered from the virus has reached 69,657 so far. Jahanpour noted that 3,079 infected people are in critical cases.

The Lebanese Health Ministry issued a statement saying that the total number of people infected with COVID-19 reached 707 after registering three new cases. The ministry noted that it did not register any deaths over the past 24 hours.

A source from the Jordanian Health Ministry reported to SMART that the new cases registered on Sunday are of two drivers, one of them on the border, and a third case of a child who contacted her parents. The source added that the total of the infected people reached 447. The source noted that five of the infected people recovered, bringing the total of people who recovered to 337.

On Dec. 31, 2019, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 spread in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The virus has infected more than 2.9 million people until April 26, 2020  in more than 210 countries, more than 203,000 of them died, according to the (Worldometer).

According to the latest statistics, death toll due to the virus around the world reached about 6.9 percent of recorded cases, while recoveries reached 28.6.

COVID-19 is an infectious disease, caused by SARS-CoV-2, that spreads from person-to-person and by respiratory droplets. These droplets fall on surrounding surfaces, so other people could be infected when they touch these surfaces by touching their eyes, noses, or mouths. People could be infected if they inhale droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, so it is important to keep a one-meter distance (three feet) away from infected people.

Infection symptoms include body aches, blocked nose, sore throat, cough, and fever. The symptoms begin as mild and develop gradually. Some people become infected without showing any symptoms and without feeling ill. About 80% of infected people recover from the disease without any special treatment.