A surge in the COVID-19 Delta variant in North West Syria is leaving health authorities overwhelmed, with only a dozen or so intensive care unit beds (ICU) left, putting children and other people with health concerns at risk, Save the Children warned.
The organization said only 14 ICU beds remained available this morning—just nine percent of the total ICU beds across nine hospitals treating COVID patients in the region. Nearly a third of ICU patients have been admitted in the past two days alone.
Between September 5-7, there have been 4,562 cases reported across North West Syria, with infection rates rising among young people in particular. With testing supplies scarce across the region and likely to run out in the next week, this is likely to be a severe underestimate, the child rights organization said.
One doctor told Save the Children’s partner organization, Violet, which provides support for health services, that the number of positive cases was increasing daily and their COVID-19 Community Treatment Center had hit 100 percent capacity.
The new cases have pushed the local health system to the brink, and many non-urgent medical operations in hospitals have been temporarily suspended.
Millions live in overcrowded displacement camps and urban areas in North West Syria, with two to three families living in a single room in some instances, making it near impossible to follow social distancing measures.
With testing kits running short, health facilities have been forced to ration them, and have been forced to reduce community and contact tracing. It is more than likely that cases will continue to grow exponentially, Save the Children said.
Sonia Khush, Save the Children’s Syria Response Director, said: “The sharp rise in cases of COVID-19 and of hospitalizations is incredibly alarming. North West Syria’s health system—already fragile—is close to breaking point. Community spread is another reason for concern. With testing capacities stretched to the limit, there’s now a real risk of a virus outbreak within overcrowded communities. This means children and people with underlying conditions and chronic health problems will be at considerable risk.”
Save the Children is calling for urgent funding to scale up testing resources and help to support humanitarian organizations identify virus hotspots and to support hospitals. Health actors also need support from the international community to speed up the vaccine rollout in North West Syria, with just 103,020 doses administered out of more than 350,000 available.
Amid displacement and economic hardship, it is also vital that donors release funding to support humanitarian agencies to support families with the economic support they need to survive.