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Is the Coronavirus making it hard for Syrian Refugees to settle down?

This year had turned out to be the most ill-fated year for Syrian refugees to settle down, thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic. Syrians who were already imperceptible for the world have now become totally invisible as every country is busy fighting its own financial and healthcare battle.

The civil war, has Syrians forced to flee their country, now as Refugees. Civil war has not just destroyed homes and livelihoods. It has severely affected healthcare centers, schools, water sanitation systems, marketplaces, and even the historic landmarks. Read below to know about how Syrian refugees are surviving through the pandemic.

Background of the Syrian Civil War

Thousands of Syrians have lost their lives in the conflict between forces loyal to President Assad and fighters opposed to his role. This civil war has its roots up in the southern Syrian city of Daraa, where a protest erupted in March 2011. Reportedly, security forces opened fire on the demonstrators, killing several people. 

As a result, anti-Assad demonstrations broke out in other towns and cities. The government quickly turned to the military in order to suppress the protestors. The government of Syria started deploying more and more tanks and troops over the following months. In no time, the situation and protests became more like a civil war and less like protests against the government. 

This fighting reached the capital of Syria, Damascus, in early 2012. The government troops continued to fight back as the rebel forces advanced. The government troops used overwhelming forces to bombard the areas they did not control. The frustration was visible in both groups. 

President Assad gave an audacious speech, ensuring his supporters of victory. This conflict continued to escalate, and some people in the military confessed that they had received help from the western governments. Russia and China opposed any involvement in this matter. 

While hundreds of people lost their lives in this civil war, thousands lost their livelihoods. People of Syria flee their country as refugees, but even the border regions are not safe from the violence. The fight for the upper hand continued by the opposing forces. In mid-2013, chemical weapons were used by the government to kill civilians. It resulted in the killing of dozens of Syrians. 

Syrian Refugees and Covid-19 

Syria was already going through tough times and was far from recovery when the coronavirus pandemic hit the world. The war-torn country lacks stable hospitals and necessary medical facilities, especially in refugee camps. The refugee camps have thousands of children and women who are struggling to survive. 

Syrians in refugee camps have survived bombs, bullets, and nine years of war, but now, there is an invisible enemy. In northern Syria, a coronavirus outbreak in the province of Idlib had the potential to kill a hundred thousand people according to the reports. 

The current situation of Syrian refugees makes it impossible to practice self-isolation and quarantine. Luckily, no one until now in the refugee camps has been tested positive for coronavirus. According to the doctors, once the virus reaches the refugee camps, it will spread very fast. 

Thousands of Syrians who happened forced to flee their homeland due to war now live in overcrowded camps and makeshift homes. The lack of hygiene in these camps will only help spread the virus rather than control it. People here cannot afford soaps, and even the water is scarce. 

According to the health officials, the intensive care beds in the province of Idlib are as little as 127. It is because the government has attacked the hospitals and medical care facilities the most. 

The response of International Communities 

Health officials in the Syrian refugee camps during COVID-19 have reported that the international community has been slow to respond to the dire situation. So if we say that coronavirus is making it hard for the Syrian refugees to settle down, it would not be wrong. 

The World Health Organization has provided only a limited number of COVID-19 testing kits to the Syrians. As the other nations in the world are busy implementing lockdown strategies to deal with the deadly pandemic, Syrian refugees are left with very little to defend themselves against the unseen enemy. 

Countries like Jordan and Egypt have been hosting thousands of refugees from the nine-year civil war in Syria. The biggest fear of the aid agencies right now is what would happen if the virus reaches the camps. 

The response of the host communities 

The coronavirus pandemic 2020 has led the world to a global economic downturn. The world’s economy is headed to the next global recession, from which it would take several years to recover. The economy of every country globally, including the superpowers, has been poorly affected due to lockdown. 

The year 2020 is going to end in a few months, but the traces it would leave behind would stay with us through most of our lives. According to some analysts, the world’s economy might take more than decades to recover from this deadly pandemic. 

At a time where every country is struggling to provide necessities to its nationals, Syrian refugees are at the mercy of their host countries. Turkey, being the country that hosts the most Syrian refugees, is dealing with a severe economic downturn. It has experienced a 12% downturn in the GDP this year. Host communities such as Turkey have shown great solidarity but have also suffered from losing their livelihoods. This situation makes it hard for the host communities to provide the same resources as they were feeding in the past. 

Are the Refugees Safe?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has highlighted the need to ensure that the refugee community is included in the host communities’ national public health responses. 

According to the UNHCR, we all can only be safe if everyone gets looked after. For the economic health of the host, countries must make sure refugees are treated as their own nationals. This sense of equality can lead to favorable outcomes.