CARE Deeply Concerned as First COVID-19 Case is Reported in Syria

Illnesses do not know borders

AMMAN, 24 March 2020 – As the first case of coronavirus is confirmed in Syria, CARE is deeply concerned about the health and safety of over three million people in northwest Syria, over half of whom are internally displaced and live in crowded camps. With the inability to test for the virus, many more cases in the northwest, which struggles with overcrowding and a fragile health infrastructure, could go undiagnosed.

"Nine years of conflict have left Syria in shambles. Not only are many vulnerable people living in tents and makeshift shelters, but civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and health care centers, have been decimated. With many healthcare professionals having either left the country or become displaced, providing sufficient medical assistance at scale is nearly impossible. As developed countries struggle to cope with responding to the virus, an outbreak will have devastating consequences on the war-torn country, where millions are in need of aid," said Nirvana Shawky, CARE’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Since the Government of Turkey’s decision to ban some medical items for export, including protective masks and gloves, these items have become scarce in Syria and are being restricted for the use of medical professionals and facilities. Other items such as hand sanitizers are also difficult to find.

Through its Syrian partner organizations, CARE has received reports of people exhibiting symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, but with no capacity to test by medical staff in Syria, those cases cannot be confirmed. The need to provide testing kits and protective gear is on the rise, with reports by the World Health Organization that kits will be delivered to Idlib on Wednesday.

"Illnesses do not know borders and a likely outbreak in Syria will overwhelm the already stretched aid response. A pandemic requires a global responsibility to act. We must act quickly and collectively by stepping up preventative measures and the transfer of medical supplies to spare Syrians even more suffering and avert a humanitarian catastrophe," Shawky said.

In response to the spread of the coronavirus, CARE has put in place COVID-19 prevention, mitigation and response programming, focusing on supporting clean water and sanitation services. In northwest Syria, CARE continues to ensure the delivery of clean water. Due to the need to increase hand washing, CARE has put plans in place to increase water trucking to people in the area. CARE also will increase the distribution of soap, cleaning material and information material for hygiene promotion.


CARE has spokespeople available. For media inquiries, please contact:

Lama Alsafi | 613-228-5641

About CARE's work in Syria

CARE has been providing aid in Syria since 2014, and has reached more than 5 million people so far. Our work is focused on food security, livelihoods, women’s economic empowerment, shelter, water and sanitation, maternal and reproductive health support, and psycho-social support for people in crisis.

About CARE Canada

Founded in 1945 with the creation of the CARE Package®, CARE develops solutions alongside women and girls in developing countries to lift themselves, their families, and their communities out of poverty and out of crisis. CARE stands with women and girls around the world in economic empowerment. We bring women, girls, and their communities together to challenge inequality while facing issues like food insecurity, climate change, and emergency relief in times of crisis or disaster. CARE works in 100 countries around the world.

To learn more about CARE Canada, visit