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In Syria, puppets show displaced children how to deal with coronavirus

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MAARAT MASRIN, Syria (Reuters) - Standing in colourful hula hoops carefully spaced to illustrate social distancing, young children in a camp in war-torn Syria give an enthusiastic welcome to a puppet show staged to teach them about the coronavirus.

Volunteers visited the camp for displaced Syrians in the northwestern town of Maarat Masrin, where they aim to teach the children how the coronavirus is spread and how to prevent infection.

Activities included a puppet show and painting on tents, with the emphasis on social distancing rules and the correct way for the children to wash their hands. The children were given soap, sanitizer and towels.

“As you saw today, we tried to spread awareness among the most fragile group, the children, through painting a mural on one of the tents in the camp as well as a puppet show that summarises the global catastrophe in three minutes,” said volunteer Samir Gohary.

“They talked to us about coronavirus and they gave us sanitizers, towels, soap,” said Raghad, one of the children.

“They educated us about coronavirus, how it infects people. A lot of people died because of coronavirus.”

Northwest Syria is the last part of the country still held by fighters trying to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. It is home to more than three million people, most of whom fled other parts of Syria in a civil war that began nine years ago.

In recent days, thousands of Syrians have begun to leave camps near the Turkish border, some fearful of the virus and choosing to return to Idlib after a ceasefire last month restored calm.

While no coronavirus cases have yet been detected in the rebel-held region, health workers fear a possible outbreak would take a severe toll on a vulnerable population.

Reporting by Mahmoud Hassano, Hamuda Hassan and Mai Shams El-Din; Editing by Giles Elgood