Coronavirus Leaves Middle East Refugees in Desperate Fight for Survival

Sitting in a tent in a camp of nearly 4,000 refugees in Turkey, a Syrian mother had gone two days without eating in order to provide the family’s remaining rice to her three children.

Her husband had not worked in weeks, as construction and farm employers had been ordered to a halt in order to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. Visits from aid groups had also stopped, with few exceptions.

The sound of refugees clamoring over the arrival of a truck signaled the presence of one of those exceptions. She and her family scrambled to their feet and joined the rush to the road.

“People came to us as if they were living their last moments and waited, as if our help would save their lives,” the leader of the local ministry said. “As soon as we got there, unfortunately we encountered the usual image: We were wearing masks and gloves while we were moving, preserving the social distance, but we saw tens of refugees come toward us without taking any measures.”

“People came to us as if they were living their last moments and waited, as if our help would save their lives.”

The ministry leader and his workers had to keep their minds alert even as their hearts ached, he said.

“No matter how much we wanted to hug them, we had to maintain the distance between us,” he said. “Other refugees gathered around and asked us to help them. I have known them for a long time, but I have never seen them so desperate, because they know how cruel this disease is, and they are very afraid.”

Affliction in the Region

Turkey has the seventh highest incidence of COVID-19 cases in the world, with more than 126,000 people infected (of which 68,000 have recovered) and upwards of 3,400 deaths. Many more unreported cases and deaths are suspected.

Among countries in the Middle East, Iran is next with more than 100,000 cases of coronavirus infection (more than 80,000 recovered) and more than 6,300 deaths. Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Kuwait and Iraq follow.

With Israel in lockdown, local missionaries are keenly aware of growing needs even though the country has the protective and medical equipment to rein in the disease, the director of a ministry based there said.

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SOURCE: Christian Aid Mission