Coronavirus Leaves Middle East Refugees in Desperate Fight for Survival

Sitting in a tent in a camp of nearly 4,000 refugees in Turkey, a Syrian mother had gone two days without eating in order to provide the family’s remaining rice to her three children.

Her husband had not worked in weeks, as construction and farm employers had been ordered to a halt in order to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. Visits from aid groups had also stopped, with few exceptions.

The sound of refugees clamoring over the arrival of a truck signaled the presence of one of those exceptions. She and her family scrambled to their feet and joined the rush to the road.

“People came to us as if they were living their last moments and waited, as if our help would save their lives,” the leader of the local ministry said. “As soon as we got there, unfortunately we encountered the usual image: We were wearing masks and gloves while we were moving, preserving the social distance, but we saw tens of refugees come toward us without taking any measures.”