Medical aid supplies are being shipped to Idlib via Turkey, while the World Health Organization (WHO) is reportedly training medical staff and preparing laboratories to carry out coronavirus tests in both Idlib and Ankara. Some doctors in Idlib suspect the virus has already killed people in the region; they just don't know for sure, as they are still waiting for about 300 WHO test kits.

150 intensive care beds for 3.5 million people

Years of fighting have decimated Idlib's medical infrastructure – 85 hospitals were targeted and destroyed during the military offensive in the region in 2019 alone. As a result, only three hospitals provide care for a total of more than 3.5 million people and only one is fully functional, says Till Kuster, the Syria coordinator for Medico International, which supports the Idlib women's centre. About 150 intensive care beds are available and the same number of ventilators, according to the WHO. For a long time now, people who are ill should have been being taken to Turkey for treatment, Küster says – even before the coronavirus crisis.

Medico International supports Huda Khayti's women's centre in Idlib. The director herself came to Idlib alone in the spring of 2018. At that time, democratic opposition and rebel groups were both brought into the province, which is controlled by the Islamist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) – far away from the Assad regime. But the Assad regime wants to regain control of the last remaining anti-regime stronghold by any means necessary.

Corona information workshops

Since then, she and her team have run workshops for women on many issues, including legal matters. But these past days, educating the women about the coronavirus has been at the top of the agenda. "We tell the women what symptoms are typical for a coronavirus infection; we teach them the necessary hygiene, how to keep their distance and how to make face masks," she says. "Very few people have enough money to buy masks and there aren't enough to go around anyway."

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