COVID-19: Response in the Middle East
With a ceasefire is now in place, COVID-19 mitigation and prevention measures are more important than ever. Our team is screening individuals and referring suspected cases for COVID-19 testing. So far, eight International Medical Corps-supported facilities have screened more than 13,650 people for COVID-19 symptoms, and the team has reached 157,205 people with COVID-19 awareness messaging. Using our mobile medical units, including through two hospitals, we also are distributing hygiene kits and raising awareness about how to prevent and mitigate spread of the disease. We are providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and infection prevention and control (IPC) supplies to partner organisations. In addition, we are conducting a vaccine hesitancy survey and are developing educational materials about COVID prevention.
In light of recent displacement camp closures, International Medical Corps’ team in Iraq has implemented new routes to access those in need. The team is providing frontline health workers with PPE, ensuring their safety as they continue to deliver primary healthcare services to IDPs and host populations in camp and non-camp settings across the country. We distributed 1,424, 461 PPE and IPC items to International Medical Corps-supported centres, safe spaces for women and girls, and camps. In camps in Ninewah and Anbar provinces, our medical teams are continuously monitoring new arrivals and isolated suspected COVID-19 patients in designated quarantine areas. So far, 24 facilities that International Medical Corps supports have screened more than 372,331 people for COVID-19 symptoms. Additionally, the team has conducted more than 83 training sessions—both in-person and virtually—for 1,587 participants. The community outreach team is using in-person sessions, social media and radio broadcasting to raise awareness about the risks of COVID-19 and how to prevent transmission, reaching 261,575 people. To improve the well-being of those affected by the pandemic, our mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) team is remotely conducting case management and follow-up, including awareness about how to cope with stress. To reach as wide an audience as possible, our MHPSS teams are using social media platforms to disseminate key messages. With 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, with physical distancing and hygiene measures in place to help prevent transmission of COVID-19. GBV case management also is being provided remotely via phones or WhatsApp to survivors who consent to such follow-ups.
International Medical Corps’ team in Jordan is playing a central role in coordinating vaccination efforts now underway in Azraq and Zaatari refugee camps, including vaccinations, registration, medical pre-screening and transportation, as well as raising awareness about the vaccine among refugee communities. Since the rollout, International Medical Corps has helped 25,279 refugees in the camps get their first dose of the vaccine. Within the same camps, International Medical Corps also has carried out 112,238 PCR tests for COVID. All other health services in Azraq and Zaatari, as well as in Irbid, remain ongoing, with non-lifesaving services—including outpatient sexual and reproductive health—resumed to full capacity. International Medical Corps also is providing a range of COVID-19-related services to an estimated 40,000 Azraq Refugee Camp residents. Since March 2020, we have screened 352,168 people at the camp’s entry and exit points for signs of the disease, have distributed 2,175,001 PPE and IPC items to staff and the people we serve at International Medical Corps facilities. Within Azraq, International Medical Corps has established a 50-patient isolation area and has created an area where immediate treatment can be provided to suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases. In addition, our health team in the camp continues to provide awareness sessions on COVID-19 to residents, reaching more than 137,791 community residents as well as NGO and security staff. Working with the Ministry of Health and the Jordanian Psychiatrist Society, our mental health team has established a 24/7 psychosocial support hotline in Jordan to respond to growing mental health needs caused by COVID-19. As curfew restrictions now have been lifted in the country, our team in Jordan has resumed in-person mental health consultations, as well as child protection and nutrition services for refugees and vulnerable Jordanians. However, we continue to conduct all group psychosocial-support activities remotely, in accordance with government regulations.
In the wake of the August 2020 Beirut explosion, International Medical Corps distributed 488,940 PPE items to primary health clinics, hospitals and mobile medical units in the Beirut area. We delivered masks, gloves and gowns to 62 healthcare facilities, as well as other medical supplies to 54 of these. We also delivered PPE to more than 4,000 volunteers working to remove debris and repair damaged homes. Before the blast, our team had developed a COVID-19 contingency plan to address disruptions caused by the outbreak and related restrictions on movement. This involved procuring additional PPE and IPC supplies—including hand sanitiser, sterilisation alcohol, gloves, masks and soap—to protect frontline health workers. The team also has raised awareness about COVID-19 among community residents and provided psychological first-aid training to frontline workers. We are collaborating closely with the government and partner NGOs, participating in sub-working groups of national COVID-19 taskforces. So far, 89 facilities that we support have screened 846,905 people for COVID-19 symptoms. In total, we have distributed more than 4.9 million PPE and IPC items to International Medical Corps-supported centres and safe spaces for women and girls. Furthermore, we have organised COVID-19 awareness-raising training sessions, reaching 105,602 community residents. In Tripoli and Akkar, we are the health lead for rapid response teams in both cities, an initiative coordinated by UNHCR that works to mitigate the spread and damage caused by the virus in refugee communities. Our team also is providing home-based medical assistance to people with certain conditions—including terminal illnesses and COVID-19—who are shielding at home due to the pandemic. In addition, we are developing activities and guidance for MHPSS support during the pandemic. And working alongside the Lebanon Ministry of Health, International Medical Corps is preparing to support vaccination efforts in the country, focusing on raising awareness among vulnerable groups about the vaccine. Our assistance will, among other things, focus on helping vulnerable residents register for the vaccine, transporting them to relevant vaccination centres, and providing hospitals and vaccination centres with relevant supplies, such as syringes. We have reached 41,128 community members through vaccine-awareness campaigns and have conducted a nationwide vaccine hesitancy survey covering 3,928 people and 99 primary health centres.
International Medical Corps’ team in Damascus continues to distribute hand sanitiser to people who attend COVID-19 awareness sessions, and provide PPE items and similar supplies to essential workers at our clinics and mobile medical teams, supplying more than 493,060 items of PPE since the beginning of the pandemic. The team has also provided thousands of bars of soap for immediate distribution and has contributed to hygiene campaigns by providing vehicles and raising awareness about COVID-19. The team is redirecting some supplies previously planned for use within regular programming to a COVID-specific response coordinated by UNICEF in schools, donating 536,697 bars of soap to two NGOs partners of the Ministry of Education for distribution to students in four governorates.
Due to the increased COVID-19 infection risk in health facilities, and to ease the pressure on public hospital ICUs, the Ministry of Health has decided that medically qualified patients can continue 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, nebulisers and pulse oximeters—through two local partners, assisting 395 discharged patients since early March. In June 2020, as government hospitals resumed a range of non-essential medical services, the team continued to provide individual assistance to non-COVID cases—especially those with disabilities, including the supply of hearing devices, prosthesis and orthosis. In July, the team provided online psychosocial first-aid training, aiming to strengthen psychological intervention skills during emergencies. In September 2020, the team also donated PPE and IPC items—including 465,000 face masks, 310,000 disposable gloves, 1,120 hand sanitisers, 585 thermometers and 24,500 goggles—to five government institutions. Working with our partners as well as the Turkish government, we have trained 82 people in IPC, including the proper use of PPE. 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 these services through phone and video calls. Since March 2020, 8,754 people have taken part in COVID-related awareness sessions and COVID-focused mental health awareness sessions. During this time, a call centre operated by our partner received thousands of calls, reaching people across more than 60 cities in Turkey. In addition, we reached several thousand people through protection and mental health awareness sessions tailored to the pandemic. Since June 2020, the team has reached 1,397 of the most vulnerable households, providing food and sanitary kits in 26 different provinces. International Medical Corps and our local partner also helped residents of İzmir affected by the magnitude 6.6 earthquake in October 2020, distributing 105,000 masks, 830 emergency hygiene kits, 1,000 COVID-19 test kits and 285 kitchen stoves, reaching 10,000 people sheltering in emergency camps.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health and Population, our healthcare team is sharing COVID-19 case management and education guidelines with health facility staff. We have trained 531 frontline health workers, community health volunteers and staff on COVID-19 case management and prevention methods. We also have provided 43 health facilities with cleaning materials—including gloves, waterproof overalls and soap—to strengthen infection protection and control. Also in collaboration with the ministry, we have trained community health volunteers (CHVs) on how to prevent and treat COVID-19, providing them with related materials to distribute within in their communities, reaching 9,761 residents, as well as to 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 981,597 PPE and IPC items to health facilities, health workers and other staff members. In addition, we donated 16,000 N95 masks to an NGO that runs treatment centres for those diagnosed with moderate to severe cases of COVID-19, which had been in danger of shutting down operations due to the lack of PPE. We are helping another NGO, the Danish Refugee Council, implement an innovative concept called community shielding, to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in crowded camp conditions. All International Medical Corps-supported health facilities continue to provide care, so far screening 360,618 people for COVID-19 and referring 30,469 patients suspected to have the disease. Five mobile units and two ambulances we have deployed in the south of the country are providing primary health and nutrition services, as well as COVID-19 referrals. In addition, we have reached 8,822 people with COVID-19 information through our Child Nutrition in Emergencies program. We also are raising awareness about COVID-19 in hard-to-reach areas, and in households without radio or television, by using vehicles equipped with speakers. We continue to raise awareness about COVID-19 through a variety of means, including in-person discussions, radio and print media, so far reaching 80,744 people through our community health workers, radio and TV coverage.