UNHCR says it is ready to counter COVID-19 in Syrian refugee camps

Amman, United Nations High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) Representative in Jordan Dominik Bartsch said Saturday that the refugee agency is ready to deal with any coronavirus cases in Syrian refugee camps in Jordan.

He said in a statement that five refugees from Zaatari and Azraq refugee camps have been confirmed as positive, adding that the Ministry of Health is conducting thousands of tests and has trained medical staff in the camp in this regard.

“Ever since the onset of coronavirus in Jordan, the spread of cases in refugee camps was an eventuality we had been preparing for. An eventuality we hoped would not happen, but nonetheless, one we are ready for,” he said.

“Through our established protocol, all refugees who are confirmed positive will be transported to the Dead Sea isolation area. Contact tracing will take place and their friends and families asked to self-isolate,” Bartsch said.

“At UNHCR, we have built quarantine and self-isolation areas in Zaatari and Azraq camps specifically for this purpose. Right now, families who were in contact with the individuals who tested positive this week are being housed at these sites,” he said.

He said that testing and treatment centers have also been established in both camps, and that if refugees had symptoms “we urge them to approach these centers or contact our hotlines for advice.” He added that should cases rise, clinics run with NGO partners such as IMC and MSF are ready to act.

“Our cooperation with the Ministry of Health and Syrian Refugee Affairs Directorate (SRAD) has been crucial during this time. We are incredibly grateful that refugees continue to be included within national health systems here in Jordan,” he stated.

He said that the developments in the epidemiological situation this week have been worrying for all, but especially for refugees living in the camps, noting that crowded spaces and cramped living conditions make social distancing difficult.

The UNHCR official said the agency is encouraged that the refugees are doing all they can to minimize the risk of transmission.

“UNHCR, together with partners, is here to support government efforts,” he said adding that masks and hygiene items are being distributed, shelter repairs carried out to make isolating at home more comfortable and food delivered directly to refugee homes.

He sai9d that movement in and out of the camps has been limited while testing continues, and only essential humanitarian staff are allowed access.

Bartsch commended donors who provided flexible funds to enable UNHCR to prepare for “this time”, adding that fighting the pandemic requires vigilance from all. He said no effort should be spared to avoid more cases among the refugees, one of the most vulnerable populations in Jordan.


Source: Jordan News Agency

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