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Pandemic Said to Hit Over 200 UN Staffers in Syria

A senior United Nations official has acknowledged in an internal memo that more than 200 of its Syria-based staff have been infected with the coronavirus. “More than two hundred cases have been reported among UN staff members, some of whom have been hospitalized and three who were medically evacuated,” Imran Riza, the UN’s resident coordinator in Syria, told other officials of the world body last week in a memo obtained by the Reuters news agency. Riza informed his colleagues that Syrian health officials were reporting more than 3,170 cases as well as 134 deaths since the first indications that the pandemic had arrived in the country in March, although independent health practitioners believe those figures are woefully low for a country wracked by more than nine years of civil war, with millions of internally displaced citizens who often find it hard to obtain medical treatment. Sources from humanitarian relief groups say there are probably hundreds more aid workers who have been infected while working in Syria under the auspices of UN agencies. In his memo, Riza admitted that the “epidemiological situation across the country has changed considerably” since his last update two months ago.