To continue delivering lifesaving aid in Syria during the coronavirus pandemic, Ahmad has had to cut himself off from his family. Writing from northwest Syria, where he works for Islamic Relief, he reflects on the challenges in the region and what motivates him to keep going.
Thank God coronavirus has not yet spread in northwest Syria where we work. If it were to get a foothold here some three million people would plunge into the shadow of catastrophe.
Coronavirus has added to existing anxieties
Repeatedly uprooted by Syria’s brutal conflict, many families here are living in overcrowded camps or in cramped conditions in towns. The deadly virus could spread like wildfire here. I’m praying it never reaches us.
The war has brought health services in northwest Syria to the brink of collapse. There is no clear and integrated health system, and this is what makes us very fearful of an epidemic. Every time I visit a hospital doctors tell me there is not enough capacity to respond to an outbreak of COVID-19.
Health workers have a good level of awareness and skills to deal with an epidemic, but their hands are tied behind their back – they desperately need more intensive care units, ventilators, and drugs.
They also lack the means to prevent the virus from getting a foothold in the first place: even basic yet vital items such as disinfectant are in short supply.
It’s a worrying time. I’m always keeping in touch with my relatives and friends, through Whatsapp video whenever I can reach the network. I have to keep checking that they are ok and not sick.
They worry about me too – especially since I’m a humanitarian worker spending my days working in the community, helping vulnerable people. They are constantly afraid for me, since Islamic Relief works in a dangerous area. I do my best to reassure them.
Islamic Relief is on the frontline of COVID defence
Islamic Relief is one of the few international aid organisations still delivering vital humanitarian aid in the area. With many families already at breaking point after nine years of war in Syria, they need us more than ever – so our lifesaving work must continue.
We’re determined to keep going in the face of this global pandemic, while doing all we can to protect the vulnerable communities we serve. So we are taking every possible precaution to reduce the chances of spreading the virus.
This includes wearing face masks and gloves, and making sure to use sterile materials. We’re delivering aid directly to people’s homes instead of setting up distribution points as we usually would.
Islamic Relief is also responding directly to the threat of COVID-19, with health projects including providing sterilising materials like hand gel and disinfectant to hospitals and health centres. And we’re running awareness campaigns to tell people how to reduce their risk in the face of this terrible disease.
Though much more is still needed and humanitarian funding to respond to the crisis in Syria continues to fall short, Islamic Relief is increasing its efforts to save lives. I feel blessed to be able to do this work.
It is satisfying to know that I am serving vulnerable people in the safest way I can; it makes me feel that I’m doing a good job and that keeps me motivated in these difficult times.
Great personal sacrifice in testing times
Coronavirus is having a huge impact on my personal life, as while I work here in Syria my family lives in a neighbouring country.
Before they closed the crossings between Syria and Turkey because of COVID-19, I had to decide whether to stay with my family or carry on working and get cut off from them until this health crisis is over.
I believe that God Almighty favours me in allowing me to do this work, and I know God will be with me as I serve people – so I decided to continue in my humanitarian work.
This means I can no longer go to my family. I long to see them again and just pray to God that they remain safe from this disease. In the meantime, I remember that the vulnerable people I am helping here in Syria are also like a family to me.
When the coronavirus crisis ends, I will thank God Almighty for this test, and I will try to visit my family. I can’t wait to hug them all, especially my children.
Islamic Relief needs your support. Donate to our Coronavirus Appeal to help us save lives.