Children in a camp for displaced persons in Idlib Province, northwest Syria
Amid the Coronavirus pandemic in Syria, the White Helmets civil defense organization is manufacturing personal protective equipment, with the assistance of a $1.6 million award.
Since their creation in 2013, the White Helmets have saved more than 120,000 lives in opposition areas of Syria. They have retrieved the bodies of victims for quick burial, and have documented the pro-Assad conventional and chemical attacks that have killed 100,000s of civilians.
As Coronavirus has struck northwest Syria, the last major opposition area, the rescuers have begun manufacture of essential supplies. A local facility has produced more than 2 million masks, protective gowns, and face shields in the greater Idlib area with more than 3 million residents.
As of late December, local authorities reported almost 20,000 confirmed cases, with 289 deaths. However, with a shortage of testing and laboratory equipment, the toll is likely to be far higher.
The crisis is compounded by the destruction or damage of more than half of the medical facilities in greater Idlib by a Russian-regime offensive between April 2019 and March 2020.
Munir Mustafa, the White Helmets’ Seputy General Manager for Humanitarian Affairs, summarizes the challenge:
The COVID-19 pandemic was the most difficult challenge the White Helmets have faced in 2020. We witnessed the spread of the virus in northwestern Syria among humanitarian workers and medical personnel while the global pandemic made cross-borders logistics almost impossible. In addition, the infrastructure for provision of health care, such as hospitals and medical staff, has been systematically targeted and destroyed over the course of the conflict.