Thousands of people are at risk as cases of COVID-19 soar in war-torn Syria, aid agency World Vision has warned.

Graham Strong, acting CEO of World Vision Australia, said the "spectre of COVID-19" was yet "another devastating blow for children and their families in Syria, who have been through much heartache already".

IDP camp northern Syria

A camp for displaced people in north-western Syria. PICTURE: Courtesy of World Vision Australia.

"The official figures could be the tip of the iceberg because testing is so scarce," he said - as of today, John Hopkins University figures puts the number of cases in Syria at 809. "For those living in camps, it can be impossible to socially distance or to access clean water.” 

World Vision said it has already been reported that the capacity of local hospitals have already been overwhelmed by coronavirus cases while the Ministry of Health has reportedly instructed hospitals in Damascus and rural Syria to stop taking in COVID-19 patients.

The organisation has also expressed extreme concern about the rising number of virus cases in north-west Syria where thousands are living in camps for those displaced by war. While the official coronavirus toll stood at 30 as of last Friday, health experts on the ground have expressed fears the figure could rapidly increase. Some medical staff are also reported to be infected.

Nadine Haddad, World Vision’s senior advisor on conflict and fragility, said the world must be aware "that in some of the world’s most vulnerable places, the virus isn’t even close to reaching its peak".

"In Syria, projected cases and deaths will be particularly severe among those who have fled conflict and are now living in camps," she said. "Much of the infrastructure has been destroyed and health services are skeletal. As cases increase, the already weak health system will soon be overwhelmed.”

World Vision International has just released a report on the first first 100 days of its COVID-19 emergency response which shows that some 85 million households in Asia have limited or no food supplies with eight million children forced into child labour or begging while in Latin America, every third Venezuelan migrant child is going hungry and in sub-Saharan Africa one in seven female business owners are earning less than half what they did before the pandemic.

By June, 2020, World Vision had reached almost 44 million people, including 18 million children, with various coronavirus-related measures including preventative and educational materials, handwashing supplies, hygiene kits and preventative behaviour promotions.

To donate to World Vision Australia's 'Combat COVID-19' appeal, head to www.worldvision.com.au/end-corona.