Six organisations write to WHO about serious situation in Shehba

The letter underlined the very concerning situation in Shehba, where over 200,000 displaced people are living.

The displaced Afrin people in Shehba together with 6 organization have signed an open letter about Covid-19 to the World Health Organization to underline the serious situation of the over 200,000 refugees living in the camps.

The letter has been signed by The Democratic Autonomous Administration in Shehba, The Camps Management in Shehba, Afrin’s Hospital’s Management, Health Administration in Shehba, Human Rights in Shehba and Kurdish Red Crescent.

The letter underlined the very concerning situation in Shehba, where over 200,000 displaced people are living.

The letter begins with a reminder of a United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO), report regarding the emergence of corona virus (COVID-19) in the Syrian Republic. The report was released on 11 March and stated that the "Syrian Ministry of Health confirmed the negative of all cases that were suspected and no one was infected."

To counter the threat of the virus, the World Health Organization provides all means of support and assistance to the Syrian Ministry of Health to supplement its ability and preparedness to address this epidemic by providing detection and monitoring equipment, training health personnel in several governorates, and providing quarantine centers in addition to holding workshops aimed at enhancing awareness and understanding the risks of the epidemic.

The report stated that the readiness of isolation centers was confirmed in / 6 / areas, namely (Damascus, Aleppo, Deir Al-Zour, Homs, Lattakia and Qamishlo) and a health center is currently being established that deals with corona cases in Dwer region in the Damascus countryside.

What about more than two hundred thousand displaced people in the northern countryside of Aleppo (Al-Shahba)? asked the people in Shehba.

The letter said: "Through the report, we see great efforts to help the Syrians ward off the threat of this epidemic, but it is very clear that they forgot a very large geographical spot in which thousands of displaced people are present, and whose presence has reached two years, amid great disregard from the World Health Organization and the Syrian government as well. The areas of the presence of the displaced from the Syrian city of Afrin, who were forcibly displaced from their areas by the Turkish army and its militant Islamic factions, suffer from a significant weakness in providing services, especially health services."

Why the region of Shehba is more vulnerable to infection with the virus

Shehba is located in the western and northern countryside of Aleppo and is located between the cities of Al-Bab and Azaz, which is a plain area with vast agricultural lands, fertile soil, and abundant hills. It consists of the following main towns (Tal Refaat – Tal Qarrah – Tal Shair – Al-Ahdath – Fafin – Deir Jamal – Kfarnaya – Ahras), but this lands are not suitable for a healthy living.

The letter lists the reason why Shehba is not healthy as follows:

"Shehba is considered one of the liberated areas from ISIS in 2016 after a war that lasted two years, and behind which it left ruins in all infrastructures such as homes, schools, water supply stations, ovens, and health centers.

Shehba is considered to be a contagious geography and a suitable place for the spread of diseases and its transmission as a result of its neglect for many years. It is also famous as a focus of diseases from a long time ago. Unfortunately, the displaced people of Afrin have had to live in this environment against their will being relatively safe, as you will find displaced people living in half-destroyed homes where there are no health conditions for a healthy life.

Here we want to mention that at a time when the world no longer mentions leishmaniasis, there are hundreds of people afflicted with it in this affected geographical spot. They receive treatment with great difficulty due to the lack of medicines and serum for leishmaniasis.

There is a severe siege on this geography, on the one hand, by the armed factions present on the outskirts of Al-Shahba, and on the other hand by the Syrian government security barriers that impede many obstacles to the movement of the displaced, which makes it dangerous in case of the spread of the virus. All Afrinis ask how will we be able to go to Aleppo, the closest area, for treatment??!!!!As for the displaced people in five camps, it is really disastrous that the camps are the first places to receive diseases and increase the rate and speed of their spread, especially in the absence of sterilization and spraying of pesticides.

The letter then asks and responds to the most critical question: What will happen if the virus spreads in Shehba?

Until the publication of the report, "there has been no case of coronavirus in this geographical area. The health committees have taken a number of preventive measures, such as preventing gatherings and closing schools, but these measures are not sufficient, but unfortunately this is at least what we can do. We will be facing a real catastrophe and a great tragedy if we do not act as quickly as we can."

The letter also reminded that Afrin Hospital is the only hospital in Shehba. 
"The hospital is located in Fafin, about 10 km away from Aleppo. The hospital is a residential house in the form of a villa consisting of several internal rooms that are not isolated and some basic departments such as operations, laboratory, and intensive care, and some clinics such as the interior, children and women, which are present in the form of mobile clinics (small size). The hospital infrastructure is very fragile as it is a bit old building. The other thing is that the hospital’s absorptive capacities are very limited. In normal days, it suffers from great pressure due to a shortage of beds, rooms and incubators for children. The hospital receives patients from the western countryside of Aleppo, from Shirwa, Noble, and Al-Zahra, in addition to more than 200,000 displaced people."

As to specialist doctors, the letter said, "they are very few, and the academic nurses are also few and the rest of the staff are trainees and volunteers who do not have educational qualifications. But despite that and despite the limited capabilities, the hospital provides its services for free for 24 hours for all citizens without discrimination or racism."

The letter then underlines that in case of a coronavirus outbreak, the hospital won't be able to cope as it lacks preventive masks for the displaced people, cloves, protective suits etc.

The hospital also lacks the thermal apparatus that reveals the symptoms of the virus.

Above all, the hospital lacks "the human resources of trained doctors and health personnel to help the infected, especially academic nurses."

We miss the isolation centers (if any case is suspected), so we suggest helping to build a separated health center that meets the health requirements in order to isolate and treat the infected ones.

The letter issues an Urgent appeal on behalf of the displaced Afrin to the World Health Organization.

"We affirm that we, as health committees, as a Kurdish Red Crescent, and as a single hospital in the region, do our best to ward off the threat of this virus by educating people and preventing gatherings, but this is not enough at all and the greatest risk that displaced people feel here is that they will not know that they are infected with the virus because of the lack of Special virus detection device."

The letter also reminds that "Afrin IDPs have suffered a lot from the effects of the war and forced displacement and its consequences on the psychological and health status, and it will be advisable to stand with them in this ordeal because it will reflect a positive feeling on the displaced. What matters at this difficult stage is the solidarity and cooperation of the whole world to stand up to this virus with one hand without discrimination or racism."

The letter has been signed by the following organisations:

Democratic Self-Management in Shehba
Camps Management in Shehba
Afrin’s Hospital’s Management
Health Administration in Shehba
Human Rights in Shehba
Kurdish Red Crescent