Weekly Media Digest March 27, 2020

SyriaUntold brings you the latest edition of our digest. We want to share with you the features, investigative pieces and long-form essays that we're reading this week.

27 March 2020


An independent media platform advancing critical perspectives on Syria and Syrians.

Rebel-held Syria braces for coronavirus 'tsunami' -- without soap, running water or the prospect of social distancing (CNN)

“Everything Fatima Um Ali needs to protect herself and her family from the novel coronavirus is out of reach. There is no running water, soap is expensive and hand sanitizer is an unaffordable luxury. She cannot even imagine what social distancing for her family of 16 would look like in the three tents they share in a makeshift camp near the Turkish-Syrian border.

‘We try with our limited capabilities to keep clean. All those sanitizers, cleaning materials that you are talking about, we can't get.’

In Syria, doctors say regime is hiding scores of coronavirus deaths (The National)

“After weeks of denial, Syria has confirmed its first case of Covid-19.

She was a 20-year-old woman who had travelled to a foreign country, Health Minister Nizar Yazigi told the official Sana state news agency on Sunday.

Mr Yazigi said the number of cases had since risen to five.

The Damascus regime had claimed that Syria was spared from the virus, despite warnings and the obvious risks of a rapid spread.

But the figures are probably much higher, said a doctor in regime-held territory.”

Bracing for coronavirus in Syria’s battered northwest (The New Humanitarian)

“Aid agencies and NGOs have been planning for the pandemic’s arrival, disinfecting camps and trying to work out how medical care and containment might work in a part of the country where many hospitals and clinics have been bombed out of service during the long government offensive on rebels in the area. A ceasefire, holding for the most part since-mid March, has allowed for some level of preparation.

For Nisreen al-Mahmoud, getting ready means sitting inside her makeshift tent in a crowded displacement camp and barely stepping outside. There is little more she can do.”

Egypt forces Guardian journalist to leave after coronavirus story (The Guardian)

“Ruth Michaelson, who has lived in and reported from Egypt since 2014, was advised last week by western diplomats that the country’s security services wanted her to leave immediately after her press accreditation was revoked and she was asked to attend a meeting with authorities about her visa status.

On Sunday 15 March, Michaelson had reported on research by infectious disease specialists from the University of Toronto as well as public health data and news stories that pointed to Egypt having a higher rate of coronavirus cases than the number confirmed by the government.”

Remnants of Isis: finds in a Syrian village – in pictures (The Guardian)

"A year after the last black flag of Islamic State was lowered in the Syrian village of Baghouz, traces of the jihadist group are still all around this small and remote village near the Iraqi border, where Kurdish fighters and the US-led coalition declared the defeat of Isis in March 2019.”

Syria’s Growing Economic Woes: Lebanon’s Crisis, the Caesar Act and Now the Coronavirus (Arab Reform Initiative)

“Three years after the regime retook the city of Aleppo, marking an important symbolic and material victory, the Syrian economy has still not recovered and few analysts expect any major reconstruction effort to take place any time soon. Among the government, businesses, and the population there is a growing recognition that economic difficulties are here to stay.”

COVID-19 pandemic: Syria’s response and healthcare capacity (London School of Economics and Political Science)

“Only five cases of COVID-19 have so far been confirmed in Syria, despite significant indications that a wider outbreak has already begun. The response by the World Health Organization (WHO) has been deemed by many to be too slow, and while WHO tests have been delivered to the central government, none has been provided to northern Syria, which is outside government control.”

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Illustation by Dima Nechawi Graphic Design by Hesham Asaad