In 2020, a year like no other, Relief International provided vital services to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and to treat those affected by it, in fragile settings around the world. In excerpts taken from our Annual Report, learn more about how Relief International was able to respond to the pandemic in diverse and different locations.
“Coronavirus scared me a lot. I could not do anything and could not escape. I surrendered to everything. I am a sick woman,” says 80-year-old Kaarima*.
Kaarima lives alone in a refugee camp in northern Syria, with no means of income and declining health. She lost touch with all of her six children when they fled from the war in Syria.
She is just one of millions of Syrians displaced by the war, with over half of the population either forced to flee the country or displaced within Syria itself.
Kaarima lives in one of the 1200 camps for displaced people in northern Syria. Life is already incredibly tough, but the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of the key issues that refugees face. It is thought that at least 1.1 million Syrian refugees and displaced people in Syria have been driven into poverty as a result of the pandemic.
Kaarima is unable to find a source of income in her camp and relies mainly on her neighbors, who bring things for her and prepare food. She suffers from general fatigue, diabetes and chronic headaches and has no means to reach or pay for medical help.
Every month though, Kaarima is visited by Dr Khaled as part of Relief International’s mobile clinic service. The mobile clinics offer free medicines and medical support to displaced communities in northern Syria. During the pandemic, the mobile clinics have continued to offer vital services as well as raising awareness about COVID-19 and how to protect against it.
"My condition was difficult [before the arrival of the clinic], but now I am relaxed [...] and I am happy because I found someone standing next to me and helping me. I hope that the service will continue for me and the people like me."
Dr. Khaled and a nurse who works in the mobile clinic visit Kaarima’s camp every month, treating patients of all ages. They also go to the homes of any patients who are unable to come to the clinic itself, including Kaarima. “I can’t move […] I had a chair with wheels, but it was broken. But Dr Khaled comes to see me. He examines me and prescribed medicine for me as well.”
The mobile clinic is one a number of lifesaving health services provided by Relief International to the millions of displaced Syrians in the north of the country. We run primary healthcare centers, mobile units and hospitals as well as an extensive network of community health workers that have all worked to continue their services and meet the challenges of the pandemic. Community health workers alone have conducted 62,571 sessions to 221,658 people in 2020, and continue to do the same in 2021.
*Name changed to protect identity.
 December 2020 report by the World Bank Group and the U.N. Refugee Agency