News Alert: COVID-19 "could spread like wildfire" in Syria

March 24, 2020

As Syria announces its first case of the coronavirus, aid workers prepare for what could be the worst outbreak yet. Kieren Barnes, Mercy Corps Country Director for Syria explains:

“The destruction this kind of virus could have in northwest Syria cannot be overstated. Social distance is a fantasy in a camp, but if we’re going to prevent a massive outbreak, we have to make it a reality. We’re requiring safe distances as people line up to receive aid, we’re spraying surfaces, wearing protective equipment and sharing accurate information about how the virus is transmitted, but people live here in very close quarters. Imagine collecting some of the most susceptible people to illness and cramming them close together in some of the riskiest of living conditions. The disease could spread like wildfire.

"Safe hygiene is a massive challenge for people fleeing danger even under the best of circumstances. Clean water is a luxury, soap isn’t guaranteed. We are increasing the amount of water we provide to each family, as well as increased supplies of soap. We are installing more water tanks to improve safe water storage. As aid workers, we are desperately anxious -- the nightmare that over a million people on the run are living through can easily get a lot worse.”


Mercy Corps has been working in Syria since 2008. We are supporting those affected by the conflict in both Syria and neighboring countries by providing emergency assistance to meet basic needs, creating safe spaces for youth, increasing economic opportunities and more. In 2019, we provided assistance to 1.48 million people across Syria.