Internet connections to protect the Syrian population from COVID-19

Publication date: Apr 06, 2020 10:55 AM - Last modication date: Apr 08, 2020 11:33 AM
Syria announced last week the first death caused by COVID-19. The spread of the virus in this war-torn country would be catastrophic. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), only 64% of public hospitals are fully functioning. The national healthcare system is already struggling to treat casualties; it is simply not ready to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak. TSF is increasing the number of lifesaving connections for medical teams in the country to ensure they are better equipped to face such a challenging situation.

The Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations’ (UOSSM) teams, our local partner on the ground, connected one new medical centre last week, adding up to a total of 9 hospitals and medical centres currently connected thanks to TSF’s support, 6 of which in the Idlib region. We are now working with UOSSM to connect two more centres in the coming weeks. In view of the tragic situation that might arise from a massive outbreak of COVID-19, such connections will be essential to save lives.  “I don't know what we would do without the Satellite Internet in Syria, it’s nearly the only way for communication inside the country… We use the internet daily to communicate with medical points and other field hospitals.” Dr. Hamadi Kansafra from the UOSSM centre of Kansafra told us. Will technologies help overcome this crisis? TSF remains mobilized to provide reliable connections to the medical teams and also to prioritise this vital link that can bringing hope to men, women and children who see their future destroyed with the bombings.

We just entered the 10th year of war, which caused an estimated 6 million internally displaced people. Many of them are living in precarious, often overcrowded, conditions, where it is nearly impossible to respect the protection measures recommended by WHO to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The support of medical teams, including mobile teams, will be crucial to avoid a massacre. Only 201 intensive care units are available in the north-west of the country, for 4.2 million people, and they are all already occupied by the victims of the war; there would be nearly no possibility to treat COVID-19 patients.

For this reason, UOSSM teams are taking several measures to prepare for the outbreak: the deployment of medical emergency mobile teams that will be operational 24/7, the improvement of existing medical infrastructures, the creation of specific centres for COVID-19, the protection of the medical teams and the diffusion of relevant information among the population to be able to contain the spread of the virus. In such context, TSF connections are essential. UOSSM doctors use our satellite equipment to communicate with the medical points and field hospitals and to coordinate the delivery of medical materials to the areas most in need. They can provide remote medical assistance and remain up-to-date with the latest medical researches and studies, which is paramount to face a new virus on which new information is shared every day.

Since the beginning of its operations in the country, TSF has connected 57 medical centres, with a total of more than 36 TB of data exchanged, but behind these numbers there is something much more valuable: lives saved. Despite the extremely difficult situation linked to the COVID-19 outbreak in a country like Syria where the healthcare system is worn out after 10 years of war and medical centres are often target of military operations, TSF continues its support to UOSSM medical teams in order to help assist even the most vulnerable people, who are the most at risk in such complex humanitarian crisis.