Several international aid groups have raised concerns that coronavirus restrictions, aimed at combatting the spread of the disease, are preventing them from reaching up to 300,000 people in conflict zones across the Middle East, Lebanese media outlet Annahar reported.
Head of The Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland said that “while governments are taking tough and much-needed measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, millions of refugees and displaced people still depend on humanitarian assistance.”
Egeland noted the organisation has been unable to reach people in Syria, Yemen and the Gaza Strip, because of strict measures imposed by authorities to stem the rise in infections, adding that “if supermarkets and pharmacies can remain operational during this crisis, then so should the delivery of humanitarian aid.”
Head of the Kurdish administration’s health department in northeast Syria Jawan Mustafa raised similar concerns, saying that “even before the novel coronavirus arrived, our needs were huge, and now, in light of the outbreak, we need even more support.”
Talking to Reuters, Mustafa noted that “we don’t have the means to do this on our own.”
A spokesperson from the International Rescue Committee said that “with the UN no longer able to provide medical supplies from across the border, the ability of many humanitarian organisations to meet the healthcare needs of those in camps such as Al-Hol… has already been compromised,” Naharnet reported.
Alarm has been sounded as Libya reported its first case of coronavirus on Tuesday. The patient, a 73-year-old man who had travelled from Tunisia on 5 March and previously Saudi Arabia, is being treated in isolation at Tripoli Hospital.
The diagnosis sparked the UN to appeal for a truce in the war-torn country to allow authorities to focus on measures to combat the spread of the disease.
In Palestine, 60 cases have been reported in the West Bank, with a further two in the Gaza Strip. In response, the Palestinian Authority has ordered a full lockdown and banned travel between cities, towns and villages.
Yemen is yet to report any cases, but neighbours Oman and Saudi Arabia have confirmed 109 and 900 infections respectively.
Several other countries across the Middle East have imposed far reaching measures to combat the spread of coronavirus, including shutting air, sea and land borders, imposing curfews and calling on residents to stay home, making movements in the region prohibitive.