The World Health Organization warned on Tuesday of the impact coronavirus could have in Middle Eastern conflict zones and urged other countries in the region against loosening confinement measures.
“This fight has become even more challenging with the appearance of the virus in countries such as the Syrian Arabic Republic, Libya and Yemen,” said the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean director Ahmed al-Mandhari.
Years of turmoil and conflicts have destroyed healthcare infrastructure in these countries, leaving vulnerable populations prone to infectious diseases as they grapple with limited access to basic medical services, he told an online press conference from Cairo.
Another serious challenge in these countries is political fragmentation, which has often hindered information sharing and humanitarian access in these countries, al-Mandhari added.
The United Nations has in recent years declared Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with millions suffering malnutrition and food insecurity.
Impoverished Yemen has so far declared a single COVID-19 case.
Syria, which has experienced a devastating nine-year war, has declared 43 cases.
Libya, which has been gripped by chaos and fighting since the 2011 ouster and killing of longtime leader Muammar Qaddafi, has reported 61 cases.
Al-Mandhari also warned against recent easing of confinement measures in some countries in the region.
Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia have recently relaxed curfew hours, coinciding with the Islamic holy fasting month of Ramadan.
“This premature lifting of physical distancing measures is likely to lead to an uncontrolled resurgence in COVID-19 transmission and an amplified second wave of cases,” said al-Mandhari.