Fri 10 Jul 2020

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“Volunteered against Coronavirus”… Solidarity in northern Syria to fight Coronavirus crisis

The photo cover of the initiative's Facebook page

The photo cover of the initiative's Facebook page

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Several NGOs and agencies operating in war-torn northern Syria, have rushed to carry out awareness and sterilization campaigns and initiatives as part of preventive measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the cities and towns of northern Syria, after neighboring countries and Syrian regime-held areas recorded coronavirus cases.  

The health directorate and the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defence (SCD) in the province of Idlib in cooperation with many local organizations in north-western Syria launched an initiative titled “Volunteers against Coronavirus,” together with the decisions taken by the Syrian Interim Government (SIG) to restrict the movement of individuals and vehicles in some areas in the Syrian north as a preventive measure to reduce the risk of contracting coronavirus cases and their spread into the region. 

Under collective efforts, international organizations, local initiatives, and young female and male volunteers are working on implementing infection prevention and control guidelines and recommendations properly to prevent the transmission of the virus and reduce its possible risks.

Harmony of hearts but spaced bodies

The health directorate and the SDF play an administrative role, which is to coordinate the efforts of organizations and individuals and divide the areas into sectors for the distribution of tasks among the organizations and the volunteers.

In addition, the health directorate will continue its attempt to ensure the largest number of medical supplies and equipment and provide proper health guidance on a regular basis. At the same time, the local and civil organizations and initiatives will launch volunteer campaigns, and a platform for registration, and supervise the work of volunteers.

“Volunteers against Coronavirus” initiative will be launched on 19 April. The participating organizations are seeking to mobilize the efforts of 8,000 volunteers, in 835 areas, to achieve the interim goals of the initiative. The initiative focuses, in its first phase, on the COVID-19 prevention through initiating activities that minimize the causes of people going out to the streets and public places and increase the physical space between individuals and groups (the practice of social distancing).

Collective stand

In speaking of the initiative, Munther al-Khalil, the head of the Idlib health directorate, said that “there can be no doubts that we are facing a great challenge, and that the task ahead is not easy at all. Still, we are seeing an unprecedented collective stand that brought together the various spectra of the people to achieve this common goal.”

In a video recording, al-Khalil explains the implementation mechanism of the initiative. He says that in the first stage, procurement volunteer committees will be established to deliver the basic needs of people to their homes, provide contact numbers that citizens can call to ask for the provision of their basic necessities, including food supplies, medications, and other essential daily needs.

According to al-Khalil, procurement volunteer committees will attempt to secure the basic needs and supplies at the same price or even lower in coordination with sellers and service providers. 

The supervisors of the initiative expect that these measures will encourage citizens’ compliance with the quarantine rules after providing these services to them, “because quarantine has proven to be the most effective measures for preventing the pandemic,” and because the need now calls for “harmony of hearts and body spacing.”

Invitations to join

 Mustafa Hajj Youssef, the director of the SCD  agency in Idlib, invited, in another video, all the local organizations and volunteer teams working in the province to join the initiative of “Volunteers against Coronavirus.” 

The supervisors created a Facebook page called “Volunteered against Coronavirus” to promote the initiative and invite volunteers to participate.

Besides, the Facebook page of “Volunteered against Coronavirus” explains the steps necessary to join the initiative, which is to fill out the volunteer application, and to obtain, after confirming that volunteers wish to join the campaign, a “Toolkit” that contains a short guide for volunteers.

It also includes instructions for the preparation of a volunteer reception center in the event the participating organizations intend to convert their headquarters to volunteer centers, or use their platforms to invite individuals and encourage them to volunteer, with follow up of the directives of the health directorate and the SCD periodically, to know the next steps.

According to al-Khalil, the initiative achieved a great success a week after its launch “with strength and momentum,” as more than 70 membership applications from organizations, volunteer teams, and various initiatives have been submitted. 

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