The resident representative of the World Health Organization in Damascus, Dr. Naimeh Saeed Abed, confirmed that to date no infections have been reported in Syria. According to the latest report issued on Mar. 15, 2020, all laboratory analyses of cases suspected of being infected with the virus came back negative—noting that the laboratory has is able to carry out the diagnosis. He added that the World Health Organization ranks Syria among high-risk countries and is a first priority country.
Abed told Al-Watan that cooperation is taking place with the Ministry of Health to enhance the ability to take precautionary measures and prevent the transmission and spread of the virus. The organization provided a reference for the emergency diseases laboratory in the Ministry of Health with two medical aid packages that include kits to detect the coronavirus. Additional shipments are on their way to Syria over the next few days.
He said that the organization had provided protective equipment for laboratory personnel, guidelines for laboratory diagnosis and approved laboratory protocols in addition to technical support to complete the standard procedures for the transmission of samples. A radiation device and personal protective equipment such as masks, single and multi-use medical gowns, protective glasses and sterilization kits were provided, as well as other equipment for disease surveillance at border crossings, such as a thermal camera at Damascus International Airport. It also secured investigation forms for suspected and confirmed cases to monitor suspected infections, as well as supporting training for rapid response teams, and spreading awareness through workshops.
He pointed to the organization’s contribution to developing and securing passenger information cards for airports, ports and border crossings, and providing guidelines for cleaning and disinfection procedures in the aviation and airports sector. He noted the coordination with the United Nations organizations working in Syria to mobilize support for the national plan to respond to the disease.
On Syria’s technical capacity to confront the virus, he said that despite the damage suffered by the health sector in Syria throughout the years of the crisis, the existing health institutions are still providing services to patients. With regards to Covid-19, there had been coordination with the Ministry of Health regarding the publication of measures to monitor infection of the emerging coronavirus. The Ministry of Health was provided with guidance on prevention and infection control measures while providing health care when a case was suspected.
Regarding the organization’s role as an international body imposing an unjust blockage on Syria, he said that, as is well known, the blockade imposed on Syria is a unilateral blockade—that is, it is imposed by some countries and not by the United Nations. According to the countries imposing the blockade, health, especially “medicine and medical equipment” are not subject to direct blockade. However, it is clear that the health sector has been directly affected by embargo, in matters such as securing foreign exchange and shipments to Syria, which were indirectly affected. The World Health Organization has consistently stressed the need to exclude the social sectors such as health from the direct and indirect consequences of the blockade.
This article was translated and edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.