COVID-19: Response in the Middle East
The Iraq team is securing additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and receiving COVID-19 training, to ensure the safety of staff and beneficiaries as program activities continue. The team is also seeking funding that will cover pandemic-response activities relating to health, with a smaller component related to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), and funding to support hospitals in the targeted locations, with the goal of helping people living in internally displaced person (IDP) camps in Mosul, as well as vulnerable people living in Ninewa, Salah Al-Din and Anbar. In addition, the community outreach team is using social media and radio broadcasting to conduct risk communication and health education. While households are on lockdown and movement restrictions are in place, people may experience increased mental and emotional distress, so the mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) team is conducting case management and follow up remotely. In recognition of the increased risk of gender-based violence (GBV) for women and girls who may be confined at home with abusers, the Women and Girls’ Safe Spaces in the camps that we support in Mosul have remained open for case management, with physical distancing and hand hygiene measures in place to help prevent transmission of COVID-19. GBV case management is also being provided remotely to survivors beneficiaries who consent to follow-ups via the phone. The organization is also seeking funding to support isolation hospitals operated by the Iraqi Ministry of Health, to ensure that these hospitals are better equipped to receive COVID-19 cases, and that appropriate proper protective measures are available for staff, in line with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.
International Medical Corps’ team in Jordan continues to operate vital lifesaving health services across the country. All health services in Azraq and Zaatari Refugee Camps, as well as in Irbid, remain ongoing, with non-lifesaving services—such as outpatient sexual and reproductive health—resumed to full capacity. International Medical Corps is providing a range of services related to COVID-19 to an estimated 40,000 people living inside Azraq Refugee Camp. In particular, working with camp management, International Medical Corps has deployed a medical team to the camp’s entry and exit points to measure the temperature of anyone entering or exiting the camp. In addition, we have established a 10-patient isolation area (now in the process of icreasing its capacity to 50 beds) inside the camp where immediate treatment can be provided to suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases. In addition, the health team in the camp continues to provide awareness sessions on COVID-19 to residents, as well as NGO and security staff. Working with the Ministry of Health and the Jordanian Psychiatrist Society, International Medical Corps has established a 24/7 psychosocial support hotline in Jordan, staffed by our mental health team, to respond to the growing mental health needs in the face of COVID-19. As curfew restrictions now have been lifted in the country, International Medical Corps’ team in Jordan has resumed face-to-face mental health consultations, as well as child protection and nutrition services, for refugees and vulnerable Jordanians.
The International Medical Corps team in Lebanon continues to provide vital essential primary health and MHPSS services, as well as GBV assistance to Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese populations. The team has developed a COVID-19 contingency plan, aiming to address any disruptions that may arise because of the outbreak and related restrictions on movement. This has involved procuring additional PPE and infection prevention and control (IPC) supplies—including hand sanitizers, sterilization alcohol, gloves, masks and soap—to protect frontline workers. To mitigate the spread of the virus, some assistance is now provided over the phone, while our rehabilitation services—which had to be temporarily paused in March—have been resumed. The team has also raised awareness about COVID-19 among community members and provided psychological first-aid training to frontline workers. International Medical Corps is also working closely with the government and with partner NGOs by participating in sub-working groups of national COVID-19 taskforces. So far, more than 120,000 people have been screened for COVID-19 symptoms at 39 International Medical Corps-supported facilities. We have also distributed more than 500,000 PPE and IPC items to International Medical Corps-supported centers and safe spaces for women and girls. In two cities, Tripoli and Akkar, International Medical Corps is the health lead for the Rapid Response Teams, an initiative coordinated by UNHCR that works to mitigate the spread and damage of the virus among refugee communities. The team is also developing activities and guidance for MHPSS support during the pandemic and continues to attend national COVID-19 taskforce meetings. Furthermore, in efforts to provide PPE and IPC supplies to local health facilities operated by the Ministry of Health, the team has recently secured funds to procure PPE/IPC supplies worth $300,000.
International Medical Corps’ team in Damascus has distributed hand sanitizers to beneficiaries who attend COVID-19 awareness sessions. To ensure the safety of staff, PPE and similar supplies are being provided to essential workers at our clinics. The team has provided thousands of bars of soap to rural areas near Damascus for immediate distribution, and has been contributing to hygiene campaigns by providing vehicles and raising awareness about COVID-19. Regular programming is now being resumed, with appropriate preventive measures in place. International Medical Corps is also planning to distribute 6,000 hygiene kits to IDPs settlements in Al-Hasakah, a city in northeastern Syria.
Due to the COVID-19 infection risk in health facilities as well as to ease the pressure on public hospitals, the Ministry of Health in Turkey has decided that some patients can continue their treatment at home. To support the early discharge of such patients, International Medical Corps is providing them with lifesaving medical equipment—including oxygen concentrators, aspirator devices, nebulizers and pulse oximeters—through two local partners, helping nearly 200 discharged patients since early March. In June, as government hospitals resumed a range of non-essential medical services, the team is again providing individual health assistance to non-COVID cases—especially those with disabilities—supplying, among other things, hearing devices, prothesis and orthosis. We also have donated PPE and IPC items—including gloves, masks and sanitizers—to service providers. Working for our partners as well as the Turkish government, we have trained 82 people in IPC, including the proper use of PPE. In July, the team provided online psychosocial first-aid (PFA) training, aiming to strengthen psychological intervention skills during emergencies. The team has adapted existing mental health, protection and physical rehabilitation services to respond to increased needs and context changes related to the pandemic, and continues to provide them through phone and video calls. Since March, 2,946 beneficiaries have taken part in COVID-related awareness sessions and 2,969 have attended COVID-focused mental health awareness sessions. Since March, a call center operated by our partner has received thousands of calls, reaching beneficiaries across more than 50 cities in Turkey. In addition, we have reached several thousand people through protection and mental health awareness sessions tailored to the pandemic. The team is also in the process of identifying the most vulnerable members of refugee and host communities in Turkey to provide food and sanitary items, and will conduct distribution in July and August.
Our health team in Yemen is sharing COVID-19 case management guidelines and other education guidelines with health facility staff. We have trained 431 frontline workers (including staff and health workers) on COVID-19 case management and prevention methods, and provided 23 health facilities with cleaning materials—including gloves, waterproof overalls and soap—to strengthen infection control. In collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health, we also have trained community health volunteers (CHVs) on how to prevent and treat COVID-19—for example, the team has distributed materials about how to prevent and treat COVID-19 to CHVs for distribution in their communities, reaching more than 750 community members, as well as to the health facilities that we support in Sana’a. Despite the global shortage of protective equipment, our team in Yemen has been able to source and distribute more than 700,000 PPE and IPC items—including masks, gloves, gowns, sanitizers and soap—to health facilities, health workers and other staff members.