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COVID Wave Hitting Northeastern Syria, Aid Group Reports

By VOA News May 04, 2021

A new wave of COVID-19 is breaking out in war-torn northeastern Syria, according to a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) news release.

MSF said that as of April 26, there were 15,000 cases and 640 deaths. The group said 960 health workers had tested positive for COVID-19.

The warning comes shortly after the International Rescue Committee said there were shortages of testing equipment and oxygen in the region.

The IRC said the region's COVID-19 response was in "serious jeopardy."

MSF said the two hospitals it supports in the region, one in Hassakeh and the other in Raqqa, have seen surges in confirmed cases over the past month.

The numbers could be higher as testing remains spotty, the group said.

"It is shocking that one year into the outbreak, the region of northeastern Syria still struggles to find the essential COVID-19 supplies," said Crystal Van Leeuwen, MSF medical emergency manager for Syria. "There is a clear lack of laboratory testing, inadequate hospital capacity to manage patients, not enough oxygen to support those who need it most, and limited availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers."

U.N. agencies are unable to deliver aid to the region without permission from the Syrian government, MSF said. The only laboratory in the region that can test for the virus is "experiencing critical shortages of supplies," the group said.

The lab will be out of testing supplies within two weeks, and two treatment centers in Hassakeh and Raqqa have had to suspend activities due to a lack of supplies, the group added.

Vaccination plans in the region "have fallen between the cracks," the group said.

"We are seriously concerned that significant COVID-19 vaccination activities are unlikely to take place in the region anytime soon," Van Leeuwen said. "The allocation of vaccine and other essential supplies has proven to be inequitable across the different regions of the country, showing that once again the humanitarian aid response in northeastern Syria is being negatively impacted by regional politics."

The group is calling for a "significant increase in assistance from health and humanitarian organizations" and "flexibility from donors to support implementing organizations."

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