CAD $1.6 million from the Humanitarian Grand Challenge directed to improve COVID-19 humanitarian assistance, providing over eight million masks to people in Northwest Syria
Toronto, January 13, 2021 – As the COVID-19 pandemic advances, millions of Syrians, including healthcare professionals and humanitarian workers, continue to live at risk without the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to adequately respond and treat those infected with the disease. Nearly ten years into the Syrian crisis, millions of vulnerable citizens continue to endure immense suffering, while the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates existing and ongoing humanitarian needs.
To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the White Helmets, a Syrian based organization made up of local volunteers from all walks of life, will establish personal protective equipment (PPE) manufacturing and safe disposal capability for healthcare workers and citizens in northwest Syria. The Nobel Peace Prize nominated organization, also subject of an Oscar-winning Netflix documentary, is being awarded $1.6 million from Creating Hope in Conflict: a Humanitarian Grand Challenge, and will be the first organization to manufacture PPE for the COVID-19 response in Syria. The country’s protracted conflict and humanitarian crisis have destroyed homes, hospitals and healthcare settings, and have disrupted supply chains leaving over four million people in northwest Syria living in precarious conditions that don’t allow for proper distancing, isolation, or hygiene measures.
To respond to the acute shortage of PPE in Syria, due to increased demand because of COVID-19 and border closures, the White Helmets have pivoted their uniform manufacturing unit to make PPE – medical face masks, protective gowns, and face shields, locally. By manufacturing and safely disposing of PPE directly in the region, four million people in northwest Syria will be better protected against the virus.
“The COVID-19 pandemic was the most difficult challenge the White Helmets have faced in 2020. We witnessed the spread of the virus in northwestern Syria among humanitarian workers and medical personnel while the global pandemic made cross-borders logistics almost impossible. In addition, the infrastructure for provision of health care, such as hospitals and medical staff, has been systematically targeted and destroyed over the course of the conflict. In response, and with support from Creating Hope in Conflict: a Humanitarian Grand Challenge, we are working to transform our local production facility into a protective gear production line. Today, our volunteers have produced more than two million masks and other protective gear that are in line with the World Health Organization’s guidelines. Our volunteers and fellow humanitarians, healthcare providers, and other essential workers are safer now and can together continue caring for Syrian civilians and responding to the pandemic.” said Munir Mustafa, the White Helmets’ deputy General Manager for Humanitarian Affairs.
With war and pandemic disrupting supply chains, it’s now more important than ever to reach people affected by humanitarian crises. The Humanitarian Grand Challenge sources, supports, and scales up humanitarian innovations to help conflict-affected people. The White Helmets are among four Transition-to-Scale finalists who will be receiving a total of $4.5 million to implement ground-breaking solutions to address challenges posed or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here for a full list of innovations for COVID-19 response.
About Creating Hope in Conflict: a Humanitarian Grand Challenge
Creating Hope in Conflict: A Humanitarian Grand Challenge is a partnership of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.K Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, with support from Grand Challenges Canada. Partners have contributed USD$32.5 million for the Humanitarian Grand Challenge, which was launched in 2018 to enable local organizations, humanitarian agencies, and the private sector to work alongside affected communities to respond more nimbly to complex emergencies, address the unprecedented magnitude of suffering around the world, and empower people to create better lives for themselves.
About The White Helmets
The White Helmets are a Syrian organization of community-based first responders and volunteers who help enhance community resilience and recovery through providing humanitarian services such as search and rescue, critical evacuation, and medical services. These humanitarian volunteers have saved over 120,000 lives since 2014. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the White Helmets in collaboration with other civil society organizations, are providing emergency response, raising awareness, medical screening services, and healthcare supplies.
The White Helmets’ ability to manufacture and distribute personal protective equipment inside Syria will not only protect those working in the overwhelmed health system, but reduce the spread of the virus among the most vulnerable.
For more information, please contact:
Zeba Tasci, Associate Communications Officer
Humanitarian Grand Challenge