Syria Kurds set up first coronavirus hospital

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A picture taken on April 20, 2020 shows a 120-bed ward at a specialised hospital for coronavirus cases inaugurated by the Kurdish Red Crescent around 10 kilometres outside the Syrian city of Hasakeh after the first COVID-19 death was reported in the northeastern region. (AFP)
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A picture taken on April 20, 2020 shows a 120-bed ward at a specialised hospital for coronavirus cases inaugurated by the Kurdish Red Crescent around 10 kilometres outside the Syrian city of Hasakeh after the first COVID-19 death was reported in the northeastern region. (AFP)
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A picture taken on April 20, 2020 shows a 120-bed ward at a specialised hospital for coronavirus cases inaugurated by the Kurdish Red Crescent around 10 kilometres outside the Syrian city of Hasakeh after the first COVID-19 death was reported in the northeastern region. (AFP)
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Updated 20 April 2020

Syria Kurds set up first coronavirus hospital

  • The hospital “is to just focus on the COVID-19 infection cases,” the Red Crescent said

NEAR HASAKEH: Syria’s Kurds have set up a specialized hospital for coronavirus cases, the Kurdish Red Crescent said Monday, after the first COVID-19 death was reported in the northeastern region.
The United Nations on Friday said a man aged in his fifties had on April 2 become the first fatality from COVID-19 in northeast Syria.
In a region suffering from a lack of medical supplies, the news further raised fears of a breakout, including in its thronging camps for the displaced.
Kurdish Red Crescent co-director Sherwan Bery said a new 120-bed facility was now ready to welcome any moderate cases of the virus around 10 kilometers (six miles) outside the city of Hasakah.
The hospital “is to just focus on the COVID-19 infection cases” and keep them all in the same place instead of across different hospitals, he said.
The idea is “to not spread contamination to other areas,” Bery said.
AFP journalists saw a large ward containing dozens of beds spaced out several meters apart, with tall oxygen tanks by their side.
“We are preparing for the moderate cases,” Bery said, but efforts were also ongoing to set up an intensive care unit for severe cases, there or in another location.
He said other coronavirus wards would also be set up in the cities of Raqqa and Manbij.
Kurdish authorities on Friday accused the World Health Organization of a two-week delay in informing them of the first coronavirus-related death in their areas and sought to blame them for any outbreak.
The United Nations humanitarian agency OCHA said WHO provided information that the fatality had subsequently tested positive.
Fears are high of any spread in the region’s overcrowded displacement camps, including the tent settlement of Al-Hol that houses some 70,000 people, including families of the Islamic State jihadist group.
OCHA on Friday said construction had commenced “to establish an isolation area outside Al-Hol camp, with capacity for 80 beds.”
Syria’s government has announced 39 cases of COVID-19 in areas it controls, including three deaths.
On Saturday, charity Save the Children warned prevention was key in Syria’s northeast, a region with “fewer than 30 intensive care unit beds, only ten adult ventilators and just one paediatric ventilator.”
“We’re desperately hoping that this first COVID-19 case in northeast Syria can be contained or the consequences are unthinkable,” said its Syria response director Sonia Khush.


Streets before suits: US envoy vists Beirut’s ‘real’ rescue hub

Updated 24 min 54 sec ago

Streets before suits: US envoy vists Beirut’s ‘real’ rescue hub

  • Hale’s visit to the volunteer hub in the Gemmayzeh district came days after Macron took a tour of the same street last week
  • Students and young professionals have ditched classes and day jobs to save lives and provide emergency support

BEIRUT: Arriving in Lebanon after last week’s deadly Beirut blast, US envoy David Hale bypassed politicians to head straight to a hard-hit neighborhood where young volunteers are helping people abandoned by their state.
At the volunteer hub dubbed the “Base Camp,” there is a “focus on getting things done,” Hale told a press conference after his tour.
He contrasted the hive of activity to the “dysfunctional governance and empty promises” of Lebanon’s political leaders, who face public outrage over the explosion of a vast stock of ammonium nitrate stored for years at Beirut’s port.
Volunteer efforts “could not only be tapped to rebuild Beirut but (also) to undertake necessary reforms that will bring the kind of transformation that is necessary for Lebanon,” Hale said.
In the wake of the August 4 explosion of a the huge chemical store that laid waste to whole Beirut neighborhoods, students and young professionals have ditched classes and day jobs to save lives, provide emergency support and start to rebuild.
Hale’s visit to the volunteer hub in the blast-hit Gemmayzeh district came days after French President Emmanuel Macron took a tour of the same street last Thursday, as well as meeting Lebanese leaders.
But while Macron was welcomed as a savior, it was clear that the heroes of the moment were the volunteers.
“I don’t know why (Hale) would do that second step and go to meet politicians,” said Wassim Bou Malham, 33, who leads a database management team at the Base Camp.
“The aid is happening here, the data collection is happening here, the cleaning is happening here, the reconstruction is happening here,” he told AFP.
Wearing face masks and neon vests, volunteers sounded like international experts as they explained how they were cleaning up their government’s mess.
In fluent English, they described 3D mapping operations, data collection and relief efforts organized since the cataclysmic blast.
Bou Malham, who spoke with Hale during the tour, is not a data expert but picked up useful experience managing client databases for two of Beirut’s biggest nightclubs.
After the blast tore through the city, wounding 6,500 people and displacing 300,000 from their homes, his skills became vital for the aid effort.
The digitised database developed by Bou Malham and his team of volunteers is now critical for sorting and delivering aid to thousands of blast survivors.
“We haven’t seen any government official or representative actually come in here and ask us if we need anything,” he said.
“It’s so funny that David Hale is the first.”
It is not only in the Base Camp that the state has been thin on the ground.
In the first hours after the explosion, civil defense teams were vastly outnumbered by young volunteers flooding the streets to help.
By the next day, the latter had set up a camp where they offered food, medicine, temporary shelter and repair services to thousands of blast victims, in partnership with several non-governmental groups.
Operations have continued to expand since.
A Base Camp relief hotline received more than 200 calls in the first two hours. Volunteers have assessed the damage to around 1,200 homes and installed at least 600 wooden doors.
“The work is going to speak for itself,” said Bushra, a 37-year-old volunteer.
Simmering anger against Lebanon’s leaders has flared since the blast, which appears to have been caused by years of state corruption and negligence.
With 171 people dead, it is widely seen as the most tragic manifestation yet of the rot at the core of the country’s political system.
Western donors too are fed up with Lebanon’s barons, who have for years resisted reforms demanded by the international community.
In a joint statement released after an international donor conference organized by France in the wake of the disaster, world leaders called for aid to be delivered directly to the Lebanese people.
USAID acting administrator, John Barsa, said at the time that American help “is absolutely not going to the government.”
USAID “will increase its financial support to civil society groups in Lebanon by 30 percent to $6.627 million,” Barsa said in a press briefing on Thursday.
At the volunteer camp in Gemmayzeh, it was clear that funding would be put to good use.
Ziad Al-Zein, arrives before volunteers start their shifts at 9:00 am to ensure the camp is clean and secure.
The 33-year-old was among the first groups of volunteers clearing debris in Gemmayzeh.
“We are not speacialists in crisis management or catastophe management. We are learning things as we go,” he said.
“There is no state,” he added. “We will not abandon our fellow Lebanese in these conditions.”